Common Elements in the Story

1. Elizabeth 

Luke used an insignificant meeting between two pregnant women in order to connect to two of the most important movements in first century Judaism: the followers of John the Baptist and the disciples of Jesus. They confirmed that each was carrying a special child.  It was a very private moment.

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Mary’s song is actually a direct response to her relative Elizabeth s statement to her, “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” Elizabeth is the connecting link between a mere visit and Mary’s song. It also became obvious to Elizabeth that there was something special about Mary and the baby she was carrying. Her knowledge didn’t come from an angel, but from a kick in her womb!

This was a confirmation that the Holy Spirit was involved, not only in Mary’s pregnancy, but her own.

The leaping of John anticipates his role as the forerunner of the “one who is mightier than I” (3:16).

Both Mary and Elizabeth lived in difficult circumstances – Mary poor, despised with a baby that wasn’t hers and Joseph and Elizabeth barren.  Mary is young and Elizabeth is old.   Elizabeth is descended from priestly class.

These two women – one old, the other young – receive a treasure from God in private.  By sharing that private treasure, isolation is broken; the moment of redemption is shared, and the act of sharing causes an increase of grace.  John’s conception was marvelous, perhaps miraculous; now the mystery deepens, as he is called, and responds to the call, even before he is born.

Elizabeth and Zechariah are symbols of an older time . John’s elderly father, Zechariah, represented Judaism and its priestly tradition. Judaism did mediate God to his people, but its ancient character stifled novelty. However, John’s elderly mother, Elizabeth, represented the open, trusting tradition of the female in Judaism. Just as the elderly Sarah became the mother of Isaac and the old Hannah became the mother of Samuel, Elizabeth could receive and rejoice in the birth of a son, even at an old age.

From this moment on, Luke would exalt Jesus and diminish John’s role. For Luke, the time of Judaism had past; the time of Christianity had dawned

This passing matched the historical events of the first century. With the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple in 70 A.D., and with the dispersion of the Jews from their homeland, Luke saw Judaism and its movements (i.e., those who tried to keep John’s ministry alive) on the wane. At the same time, Christianity was gaining strength in numbers. A time that honored the unchanging was undergoing massive change.

2. Angel 

Angels are messengers, representing the transforming power of God

John will be filled with the Holy spirit like Elizabeth. Like Mary, John will be great in the sight of the Lord

3. Songs 

Importance – Mary’s response is strong, powerful, and prophetic. She sings a song that confidently loops her own personal experience into the larger narrative of God’s power and love—past, present, and future.

Mary’s words are at once historical and timeless, courageous and faithful. She is exactly the person the Son of God needs to help him grow into the full stature of humanity – The Rev. William Lupfer Rector of Trinity Wall Street

Zechariah’s song is in that category  – Zechariah saw more clearly after his suffering than he could have otherwise; he could see how all things come together in Gods purposes. 

Zechariah sings that the greatest surprise for him was to see that he was playing a part in the ongoing history of God’s redemptive work in the world. In so doing, he gives us encouragement as to the why and how of all this: it is all “because of the tender mercy of our God.” Again he focuses on the mercy of God, yet now he personalizes this trait of God, referring to it as “tender.”

4. Faith

The extraordinary thing about Zechariah was his faith. He is often portrayed in a negative cast, as one with little faith, someone who did not believe and therefore had his speech taken away from him. However, it is critical that he be seen in the light of his own personal life situation.

Zechariah was a man who was looking for the fulfillment of God’s promise. He lived his life in faith and hope—faith in the promises made to the ancestors and hope that God would be faithful to fulfill them . And when his son was born and his tongue was loosed, Zechariah sang a song of praise to God for fulfilling those promises. The specific way in which Zachariah saw this promise fulfilled was in the birth of his son John as a messenger to “prepare the way for the Lord.”

Zechariah lived at a time that has been referred to as the “silent years,” a period between the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament when in effect God seemed silent to the Jewish people, for what they called “prophecy” had ended. Ever since returning from their Babylonian exile, for almost four hundred years, the Jewish people had experienced a faraway and distant God. Nevertheless, they still prayed for (even if barely) and still hoped (even if just) that their Christ, the Messiah, their Savior, would come. And Zechariah was one of the priests selected to lead the people in this hopeful prayer, even though he, like his people, heard and saw nothing of the Messiah himself

5. Reversals – Elizabeth bears child, Zechariah bears incense

Over the course of his Gospel, Luke further develops this theme of sudden reversals that he initiates with Elizabeth’s sudden restoration.This will become a major motif in his account of the ministry of Jesus.

Luke will document Jesus’ miraculous way of rescuing (saving) and restoring (lifting up) people by living out Isaiah’s prophecy.

Luke will repeatedly show us that Jesus did not merely heal people, but in doing so always restored them socially, spiritually and physically. Typical examples include the woman  with the issue of blood, the raising of the widow of Nain’s son, and reclamation of the Gergesene Demoniac

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