December 13, 2014

The Birth of John the Baptist

The story of the birth of John the Baptist begins with the visit of Marry to Elizabeth while they are both pregnant (see Luke 1:39-80). Elizabeth immediately recognizes that Mary will be the mother of the Savior, of the Messiah.

Mary then praises the Lord for this wonderful blessing that she will have. This prayer is known today by the title of the Magnificat (the first word in the Latin). It is interesting that the blessing or praise that Mary recites is very similar to the praise that Hannah recites after her son Samuel is born. If you will remember, Hannah was barren and unable to have children. When she came to the Tabernacle to pray unto the Lord, she was promised that she would be able to have a child. Once her son Samuel was born, she came again to the Tabernacle and praised God. The prayer that she offers is very similar to that of Mary's. Notice that she begins with almost the exact same phrasing as does Mary. “And Hannah prayed and said, My heart rejoiceth in the Lord, mine horn is exalted in the Lord: my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation” (1 Samuel 2:1) Mary proclaims, “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour” (Luke 1:46-47)

Mary stays with Elizabeth for about three months. However, for some reason she leaves before the birth of John the Baptist (see Luke 2:55-56). John is then born, circumcised, and on the eighth day is named. The family all gathers around and rejoices, which interestingly enough is unlike the story of Mary who will have no family or friends around her. In fact, the only people that will gather around her are complete strangers. As the family declares that the name should be Zacharias, the name of his father, Zacharias immediately asks for writing tablet. This tablet most likely was a wax tablet that you would impress or engrave with a stylist. The first thing that comes out of his mouth is a pronouncing of a blessing; a blessing not only on his own child but a blessing on all of Israel.

Recreated wax tablet, similar to what Zacharias may have used
It is interesting that Zacharias now has the chance to pronounce the blessing that he never was able to pronounce on the day he saw the angel Gabriel. A blessing that truly will bless all people because through his son, John the Baptist, the era of the Messiah will be ushered in. And as Jesus proclaimed, John truly was the greatest prophet ever to live.

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