Shortly before Jesus is born, John the Baptist’s father gives us a sneak peek of what to expect.
His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:
68 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David
70 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
71 salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us—
72 to show mercy to our ancestors
and to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
and to enable us to serve him without fear
75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79 to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.
It’s hard to imagine exactly what it was like for Zechariah and his family. For their whole lives, their culture has taught them about the future Messiah, a legendary saviour. And now they find out that it’s probably going to happen within their lifetime.
After this part, Zechariah and Elizabeth sort of disappear because the story turns to Jesus, but I do wonder what happened to them. Would John have baptised them as well? Or maybe, like some of Jesus’ other relatives, the saviour didn’t end up being quite how they expected.
Based on Zechariah’s little speech here, it does sound like he was on the right track when he thought of his son’s future. He uses a lot of the same words and ideas that Jesus does – shining a light in the darkness, and guiding people on a path. And he focuses completely on salvation and forgiveness of sins, and not the conquering, Roman-defeating saviour that a lot of other Jews may have been hoping for.
And Zechariah already had such a clear picture of this before Jesus was even born!
Head: Does what Zechariah says line up with your image of Jesus?
Heart: What part of Zechariah’s prophecy speaks to you the most?
Hands: Read some other prophecies in the earlier parts of the Bible and see how they match up with what Zechariah says.
Prayer: Lord, we thank you for the gift of your son. Thank you that your plan for the world was spoken by your prophets for our benefits. Thank you for Zechariah’s joy, and let us to experience the same joy when we remember Jesus, the life he lived on Earth, and the purpose he had when he died and rose again. Amen.
A song to listen to: Rejoice