The One Year® Chronological Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013), September 24
God breaks four hundred years of silence when the angel Gabriel appears to an old priest named Zechariah. The angel informs Zechariah that his prayer—that his barren wife would bear a son—prayed many years earlier, has been heard, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John . . . He will also 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” (Luke 1:13, 17).
Six months later, the same angel appears to a young teenage girl and promises her that, though she is a virgin, she will have the Son who will sit upon David’s throne: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end” (1:30-33).
Both Zechariah and Mary are startled and afraid at the angel’s appearance. Gabriel addresses both of their fears. Zechariah considers his old age and his wife’s barren womb, and does not believe until Gabriel assures him otherwise. Zacharias’ response in unbelief costs him his voice for nine months!
Mary wonders at Gabriel’s announcement and is assured that God Himself will fill her womb, that He who has opened the barren womb of Elizabeth can enter the womb of Mary—“For with God nothing will be impossible” (1:37). Though Mary questions the “how” of virgin birth, she immediately embraces God’s will for her life.
Mary hurries off to Judea to see Elizabeth. Her response to Elizabeth’s blessing reveals the reason Mary had so quickly received and embraced Gabriel’s announcement. She quotes at least twenty-five texts from Genesis, Exodus, 1 Samuel, Psalms, Isaiah, and Habakkuk (Lk. 1:46-56). Mary interprets Gabriel’s announcement in light of what she understands about God and His promises of redemption recorded by the prophets of old. Gabriel’s announcement knits together the various pieces of the Old Testament that Mary already knows. Bible literacy prepares Mary to receive Gabriel’s message with joy and abandon.
That’s just like God. No headlines. No parades. No fanfare. Just two announcements—one to an older priest and the other to a young teenage virgin—interrupt time and people’s lives, and change history. Zechariah’s son will prepare many Israelites for the coming of the virgin’s son. Mary’s son will save God’s people from their sin.
Questions from today’s chronological Bible reading (Mark 1:1; Lk. 1; 3:23-38; Jn. 1:1-18; Mt. 1:1-17):
Luke’s Gospel begins with the announcement of John’s birth and moves to Jesus’ birth—with Jesus’ humanity—while John’s Gospel begins with Jesus’ deity before it introduces John the Baptist. What does John’s Gospel establish regarding Jesus’ identity and mission? The identity and mission of John the Baptist? How does John end his prologue?