Jesus and John
Chapter 1- In the Beginning…The birth of John
1:5 THERE was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 1:6 and they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. 1:7 and they had no child, because that Elizabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years. 1:8 And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course, 1:9 According to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. 1:10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. 1:11 and there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 1:12 and when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. 1:13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 1:14 and you shall have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. 1:15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 1:16 and many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. 1:17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. 1:18 And Zacharias said unto the angel, W hereby shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years. 1:19 And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto you, and to show you these glad tidings. 1:20 and, behold, you shall be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because you believe not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season. 1:21 and the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he tarried so long in the temple. 1:22 and when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless. 1:23 and it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of hi s ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house. 1:24 And after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, 1:25 Thus has the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach h among men
So it was that John the Baptist was born against all odds. His mother was old, and yet according to the Angel she would still be able to bear a child. It would truly be a miracle. According to the Angel Gabriel their son would be named John not Zacharias, as in normal Jewish custom. The Angel also goes on to say that John will be a great person in the eyes of the lord. He will be a person filled with the Holy Spirit. He would be a prophet because many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. He shall have the power of Elijah to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make read a people prepared for the Lord. It seems John’s mission was to be a prophet of the Lord right from the beginning.
And, behold, your cousin in Elizabeth, she has also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. 1:37 For with God nothing shall be impossible. 1:38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to your word. And the angel departed from her. 1:39 And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; 1:40 and entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elizabeth. 1:41 And it came to pass, that, when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit: 1:42 And she spoke out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb
So according to the scriptures Mary was informed by an Angel that her cousin Elizabeth, despite her old age, was already six months pregnant. So Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth to the city of Juda called Hebron. A second reason was because when she realized that she was with child, and she could have been stoned to death for having a child out of wedlock. Joseph may have decided to abandon her for having a child without lying with Joseph. Fortunately, Joseph had a vision and an Angel came to him and told him not to worry that Mary would bear a male child who would become a leader among men and his name would be called Jesus (Jeshua).
Joseph feared for Mary’s life, and he was himself confused. Young woman that became pregnant without a husband were stoned to death in those days. He knew it was best that Mary go to her cousin Elizabeth for a few months so that his relatives would forget Mary for a while. This would give him time to announce that he intended to marry Mary.
It was a hot sunny day in Nazareth that day in the year 1 BC in the country of Judea during the reign of Herod the Great, a governor put in place by the Romans. Mary, a short, longhaired brunette was a Jewish girl of age thirteen living in Nazareth a city in Galilee in Judea. She was preparing for the three-day journey to the south of Judea to the town of Hebron to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Mary had a vision that her cousin Elizabeth, who was quite old and without child, was now pregnant. Mary and Joseph could not go together to Hebron where Elizabeth lived because Joseph had a building business that required his presence. Joseph was sending a servant that worked for him to keep her safe. Joseph had just gotten done loading the donkey. “Mary, Nathaniel, my servant, will accompany you to Hebron for the three day journey of 70 miles,” Joseph said. “You know I want to come with you, but is better that you stay with your cousin for a while. The Angel of the Lord has told me you are pregnant, and I know you have not slept with me, so it creates a dilemma for us. No one will believe that you are a virgin, and you know the penalty for having a child out of wedlock is stoning to death. I love you too much to let that happen, so I am sending you to care for your cousin Elizabeth. There you will be out of reach of anyone intending to do you harm,” Joseph stated. “I understand Joseph and I am grateful,” Mary replied. “Upon your return I will have already announced our wedding to my family and relatives and townsfolk,” Joseph said.
Elizabeth and Mary had grown up together in Nazareth, and now that Elizabeth had married, and moved away, Mary had not seen her in over a year. Mary looked upon Elizabeth more as an Aunt than a cousin because Mary was many years younger than Elizabeth. “It would also be safer for Mary to remain there for a while should any of Joseph’s relatives suspect that Mary was with child. Mary knew Joseph was right and that he was acting in her best interests,” Mary thought.
Word came from a local merchant trader who had been to Elizabeth’s village, Hebron, that Elizabeth was expecting a child. This further supported the vision of the Angel to Mary, and the vision of the Angel to Joseph. The journey to Hebron where Zachariah and Elizabeth lived was a long and dangerous journey. The danger was even greater when not traveling with a caravan that could protect its travelers with an armed escort. Despite these facts it was more expedient that Mary be on her way with Joseph’s servant Nathaniel. So it was that Nathaniel and Mary on a donkey headed south to the city of Hebron to visit Mary’s cousin Elizabeth. Nathaniel had to be careful of thieves that prey on caravans or isolated travelers. He took care to stay off the main caravan roads and to take the side roads where they would not run into thieves and robbers.
After Mary and Nathaniel left, Joseph went into his house to pray. “Lord God if be thy will, and Mary is to bring a child into this world, watch over her and keep her safe. For this will be my first child and one who is blessed by the Angels. Give me strength Lord to deal with my weaknesses. God bless my family, amen,” Joseph prayed
The first day Nathaniel and Mary had reached the twenty-mile mark and stopped to rest for the night. They took blankets off of the donkey and bundled up for the cold desert air of the night. Mary lay on her blanket looking up at the stars when she noticed a shooting star. “I wonder if that is a sign to me from God,” she questioned. Nathaniel said little for he was but a servant of Joseph’s and he did not know Mary at all. After eating some dried fruit and lamb meat they retired for the evening.
The next morning they set out early for Hebron to avoid the heat of the desert. Nathaniel planned to avoid going through or stopping at Jerusalem since it would slow down their trip and it was a dangerous city to enter for just two people. Mary was a talkative young girl with a bundle of energy. She spoke to Nathaniel while riding the donkey as they journeyed south. The next night they camped by a spring where they were able to fill up their water sacks and water the donkey and give it time to feed on grass.
“How much further Nathaniel need we travel to get to Hebron,” Mary asked the next day? “Not far Mary, perhaps another days trip if we can walk more than thirty miles in one day. They passed a caravan headed north that day that were surprised to see just two people walking all the way to Hebron. A person in the caravan yelled out as they went by, “where are you two going, Jerusalem?” Nathaniel responded by yelling back, “No we are visiting relatives in Hebron south of Jerusalem.” “Good luck and watch out for bandits, we killed three of them a day ago on the caravan trail,” the stranger shouted back. They had camels in the caravan that could walk a lot faster than a donkey. Nathaniel wished they had two camels to ride on instead of a donkey. “It is as the master wishes it,” he said to himself.
On the third day just before dawn Nathaniel and Mary approached the hilly country where Hebron lie. “Mary look down there in the valley lies Hebron,” Nathaniel pointed out to Mary. “Thank God, I am glad to get off this donkey and see my cousin Elizabeth,” Mary responded. As darkness descended, they entered the city of Hebron and searched for the house of Zechariah of Hebron. Finally, they came across the house and entered in. “Mary it so good to see you and guess you have heard the news,” Elizabeth said. Mary introduced Nathaniel to Elizabeth and Zechariah. “I have come to help you cousin in your time of need,” Mary said. “Keep it a secret cousin, but I am also with child,” Mary confided to Elizabeth. “What did Joseph say and did you sleep with him,” Elizabeth asked Mary. “No an Angel of the Lord came to me in a dream and told me I would be with child without lying with my finance,” Mary whispered. “I was afraid that I would be stoned and fearful that Joseph would leave me,” Mary said. “Do not worry Mary, you are safe here with your family and we will protect, and care for you until you return to Nazareth,” Elizabeth said.
“Thank you Nathaniel for delivering me safely,” Mary exclaimed. “Give my love and best wishes to Joseph,” Mary said. After that Nathaniel headed off on the donkey for the three-day trip back to Nazareth.
While Mary was staying with Elizabeth the baby kicked in Elizabeth’s stomach. Elizabeth was amazed and excited to have a child, and to have Mary there to help her through the pregnancy. Truly both of them were blessed by God to have children. Elizabeth was in her advanced years, and Mary was in her younger teenage years (13 exactly). Truly two miracles had occurred. Mary stayed for three months and then returned to Nazareth to her betrothed Joseph. When she returned Joseph had a welcoming party to introduce his betrothed to his family and relatives. Everyone was happy for Joseph for this was his first marriage and Mary’s first marriage also. “Joseph, Elizabeth sends her best wishes to you and your family,” Mary said. “I am so glad to be back home in Nazareth with you Joseph,” Mary exclaimed. “I am glad you have returned safe and sound my love,” Joseph said. “Come let us feast and celebrate your return to our family,” Joseph shouted out.
The next day Nathaniel took the donkey and returned to his master Joseph in Nazareth. Mary bid him goodbye. “Thank you
When Elizabeth saw and heard from Mary that an Angel had told her of her pregnancy, Elizabeth was overwhelmed with joy. It would be good to have someone to help her through her first pregnancy, Elizabeth thought. Mary would have time to rest and not fear reprisal from Joseph’s relatives for being with child but not lying with Joseph. Mary knew that once Joseph announced formally that he intended to marry Mary the problems with her being pregnant would subside. It was after all Mary and Joseph’s first child.
1:56 And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house. 1:57 Now Elisabeth’s full time came that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son. 1:58 and her neighbors and her cousins heard how the Lord had showed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her. 1:59 And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father. 1:60 and his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John. 1:61 and they said unto her, there is none of your kindred that are called by this name. 1:62 and they made signs to his father, how he would have him called. 1:63 and he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John.
Chapter 1- In the beginning for John the Baptist
When Elizabeth finally delivered John, he was premature by a few months. Jewish tradition would have Elizabeth naming the male child after his father Zacharias, but the Angel of God had instructed her to name the child John, and that is what she did. Zacharias was stricken deft and dumb for not believing that his aged wife would have a child. When Zacharias was asked what to name the child, he wrote down on a tablet, John. Immediately he regained his voice, and hearing, and he blessed the Lord. Zacharias was a priest of the Temple at Jerusalem who administered the incense on occasion. Both Elizabeth and Zacharias hailed from a long line of Priests and this gave great credence to John’s legacy from birth. Mary and Joseph were of the house of David and they also had a claim to a great heritage. Two male children born but 13 months apart with great family lines, and blessed by an Angel. Destiny was about to erupt in Judea and Galilee.