Jesse Tree: Day 21 Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-45)
Zechariah’s prayer had been heard (Lk.1:13). Which prayer? Was it the prayer he had just been offering in his role as priest in the Temple, a prayer articulating the hope of Israel in the coming Messiah? Or was it the more intensely personal prayer for a child? There is no explicit mention of such a prayer, but in the light of Luke 1:7, it’s hardly beyond imagining. Perhaps it was many years since either Zechariah or his wife, Elizabeth had been able to summon enough hope to give voice to that prayer.
In the event, the answers to both prayers converge in the conception of John in Elizabeth’s womb. The personal and public aspects are held together in Gabriel’s declaration that: ‘He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth’ (Lk.1:14). Individual and corporate hopes are realised.
It is one of the great understatements of the Bible that ‘Elizabeth became pregnant’ (Lk.1:24). Her simple trust is exemplary, especially when contrasted to Zechariah’s hesitation. No heavenly visitation had inspired her faith, nor was it needed. It is important to note that her disgrace (such as it was) was ‘among the people’ (1:25). Bad theology hurts people. In the sight of God, Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous, ‘observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly’ (1:6); but amongst those who didn’t share God’s perspective there was an assumption of unconfessed transgression. The situation reminds us of when Jesus’ disciples see a man blind from birth, and ask, ‘Who sinned, this man or his parents?’ (Jn 9:1). Compounding the pain of childlessness, Elizabeth had to bear the insinuations and aspersions of her generation.
Elizabeth sees everything as a gift of God’s favour. Her pregnancy elicits her recognition that ‘the Lord has done this for me … He has shown His favour’ (1:25); likewise Mary’s visit prompts the question, ‘Why am I so favoured..?’ (1:43). She has been blessed and in turn bestows blessing on others (1:42). Her experience of grace inspires her graciousness to Mary, to whom she shows both hospitality and deference. It is a powerful observation that both her and Zechariah’s attention is focussed on Mary’s Child, rather than on their own. Hers is the first recorded human confession of the Incarnate Lord (1:43), and her clear vision of God’s fulfilling His promises in their midst leads to a beautiful Christ-centeredness that enhances her joy rather than detracts from it (1:58).
We only catch glimpses of Elizabeth as she weaves in and out of Luke’s focus. Yet we are hard pressed to find a more compelling vision of Christian meekness, faithfulness and humble obedience than in this aged saint.
…she exclaimed, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favoured that the mother of my Lord should come to me? (Lk.1:42-43)
Ideas for Family Devotions:
It’s not quite Christmas yet, but there is a great re-telling of the story of Jesus’ birth in the Jesus Storybook Bible. You can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E2y2FJqsv_8
While Mary was staying with Elizabeth, she would have helped Mary and supported her as she came to terms with what God was doing in and through her. Who can you think of who helps you understand God and what He is doing? Maybe your Mum or Dad, or a god-parent? Or your Sunday Group leaders? Why not write them a card, saying ‘Thank-you’ for what they have taught you about Jesus… pray for them as a family.