Let’s take a fresh look at the lives of two exceptional women used by God. Luke
introduces them to us by sharing their two separate, miraculous conception narratives that launched the New Testament and the gospel era (Luke 1:5-57).
First, we meet Elizabeth, perhaps in her 70s, who lives in the hill country of Judah, not far from Jerusalem. She has never had children, and is well beyond childbearing years. Yet with her husband, the priest Zacharias, she miraculously conceives and carries in her womb the baby who would become John the Baptist.
Second, we see the girl Mary, most likely a teenager, who lives in Nazareth. She is engaged to Joseph, a carpenter. Though having never been with a man, Mary miraculously becomes pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit.
This story is a reminder about the surprises God may have in store for us.
Two pregnant women, two miracle mothers. In both cases the angel Gabriel bears the message of their coming sons: John the Baptist, forerunner of Christ and greatest prophet the world has known; and Jesus Christ, Son of man, Son of God, Savior of the world.
In both accounts Gabriel appears, makes the announcements, assures them both of God’s providence, describes the ministries of their respective sons, then departs. In Mary’s case Gabriel informs her of the pregnancy of her relative, Elizabeth.
Then, on her own initiative, Mary decides to take the 80-mile journey to visit Elizabeth, who is six months pregnant. With faith and fortitude Mary arrives at Elizabeth’s home for a memorable meeting. They share the prophetic implications of their parallel experiences of heavenly encounters, divine messages, and coming sons.
Three remarkable things happen when Mary greets Elizabeth: (1) in utero John leaps in his mother’s womb in the presence of in utero Jesus; (2) Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit; and (3) Elizabeth blesses Mary, declaring that Jesus is Elizabeth’s Lord. Some Bible students argue that this was John’s first prophetic act: confirming the person of the Messiah.
Mary and Elizabeth have an affirming visit, doubtless in the company of mute Zacharias. Three months later, before John is born, Mary returns to her Nazareth home.
What an incredible series of events caused by a simple visit! This story is a reminder about the surprises God may have in store for us. They may be overlooked because of our unbelief, busyness, and lack of spiritual initiative.
Here are three action principles:
First, hear and believe. Note the prompt willingness shown by the two mothers. They heard God’s faith-stretching plans and immediately became pliable to providence. They believed.
Second, initiate and follow through.With focus and motivation Mary courageously embarks on the long journey to pursue truth and share her testimony. In turn, Elizabeth affirms Mary with open arms. They cooperated.
Third, share and affirm.These women meet and share with each other in their divine mission. Honesty, holiness, humility, and harmony are evident in their encounter. When they part, they’re confident of God’s providence in their lives, homes, nation, and world. They affirmed.
This is a priceless story worthy of more than an annual review. Yes, it’s about prophecy, pregnancy, and progeny. But it’s also about courage, conviction, and cooperation. How can we apply its principles to our lives?
Delbert W. Baker has served the church as an editor and administrator.