Two visits by one angel, five month apart. Two people, an old man and a young woman, both devout. Two angelic proclamations about two sons. Good news, miraculous, unbelievable—a child past child-bearing years and a child without a husband. Never happened before or since. Two opposite responses to the incredible news.
Two sons destined for greatness, one the greatest of the Old Covenant and the other the greatest of the New Covenant, both named by heaven, bypassing traditional names: John (“the Lord is gracious”) and Jesus (“the Lord saves”). Two regions, Judea and Galilee. The priest needed to live near the temple at Jerusalem. Galilee would light up in thirty years like never before: “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light.” Jesus was born in the south and ministered in the north.
Two women, one barren, one a virgin. For the first, the news would lift the shame she felt her whole adult life. For the second, the shame would commence when she began carrying a child.
Two impossible pregnancies facilitated by the moving of the Holy Spirit on their bodies, both including prophetic words by the mothers when the sons met in Judea—still in the womb. Both sons who would change history, the one serving the other as a forerunner, yet knowing Jesus came before.
Joseph had himself heard from an angel, so he took Mary into his home. But now after her angelic visitation, she told Joseph she needed strength from a motherly figure who would understand, whom she found out was also carrying a miracle.
Mary could be stoned for what appeared like adultery. God’s miracles can masquerade behind what looks like mistakes. They also hide behind impossibilities. Both women were graced by heaven but disgraced on earth, one before the baby came, the other during and after.
- Suffering needs to be stewarded well. It will shape our character and release the gifts of the Spirit if we do not allow resentment to color our perception of God: Elizabeth said, “Why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” less than a centimeter long in Mary’s womb. Elizabeth’s remarkable recognition of Mary’s baby came out of the fires of affliction.
- Humility brings grace that releases the activity of the Spirit. Elizabeth recognized that her task was dwarfed by a far greater assignment of being the mother of the Messiah. Her humility gave her revelation of the purposes of God. She could have made the moment about herself. If you want to prophesy well, suffer well and stay low.
- God has charge of the womb. He works His divine will without checking probabilities. “Against all hope Abraham in hope believed…” With God, it is not as it appears.
- We give it all to Jesus. Mary said, “I am the Lord’s bondservant. Let it be to me according to your word,” another way of saying, “Jesus can use my body.
A man who owned a donkey said, “Jesus can use my colt.” A woman said, “He can use my alabaster box.” Another said, “Jesus can use my grave.” What can we offer Jesus? Our car, our home, our gifting, our position?