Friday

“The hand of the Lord was with him” (v. 66)

Luke 1:57-66, 80 Friday 24 June 2016

Psalm: Psalm80:1-7


Background

In some parts of the global Churchtoday, Christians are marking the traditional date of the birth ofJohn the Baptist. Our passage today recounts part of the story ofhis miraculous birth from the opening chapters of Luke's Gospel. Weread that John's parents, Elizabeth and Zechariah, were relativelyold and had been unable to have children. However, during animportant ceremony at the temple in Jerusalem, the angel Gabrielappeared to Zechariah and told him that Elizabeth would bear achild that would "turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord"(Luke 1:16). Zechariah doubted that this couldhappen and was struck mute by the angel until the birth took place(Luke 1:18-20). In today's passage, the angel'sprophecy is fulfilled.

In many ways, today's story looks bothbackwards and forwards. The story is very much a continuation ofGod's revelation to God's people that began in what we now call theOld Testament. Most notably, the child was born to a woman who hadbeen told she could not conceive, like Sarah (Genesis 18:14) or Hannah (1Samuel 1:20). It is hard for us to appreciate in the Englishtranslation but even the language in which this section of Luke'sGospel was originally written seems deliberately designed toimitate that of the Greek translation of the Old Testament (theSeptuagint) that many of Luke's contemporaries used.

The passage also very much looksforward, though. Women play an important role in Luke's Gospel andit is arguably significant that here Elizabeth speaks while theman, Zechariah, is silent. This miraculous intervention by God inhuman affairs also produces both joy and fear, presaging thedivided reaction to the ministries of both John the Baptist andJesus. Most importantly, Luke's Gospel makes clear that this babywill not remain a simple child for long but has an important anddifficult mission to fulfil. This mission will initially take himout to the dangerous desert places of Judea, but will eventuallylead him to challenge the sins of a king and pay with his life (Luke3:19-20).


To Ponder

  • How important is it to read the New Testament in the light ofthe Old Testament?
  • Why do you think that John's birth bought both joy andterror?
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