1 Dec. Luke 1:5-20

1 Dec. The angel Gabriel reveals John's mission

"During the time Herod [the Great] ruled Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah who belonged to Abijah's group [one of the 24 groups of Jewish priests who officiated in the Temple at Jerusalem - see 1 Chronicles 24:1-5]."

"Zechariah's wife, Elizabeth, came from the [priestly] family of Aaron. Zechariah and Elizabeth truly did what God said was good. They did everything the Lord commanded and were without fault in keeping his law. But they had no children, because Elizabeth could not have a baby, and both of them were very old."

"One day Zechariah was serving as a priest before God, because his group was on duty. According to the custom of the priests, he was chosen by lot to go into the Temple of the Lord and burn incense. There were a great many people outside praying at the time the incense was offered."

"Then an angel (Greek: 'angelos' meaning 'a messenger') of the Lord appeared to Zechariah, standing on the right side of the incense table. When he saw the angel, Zechariah was startled and frightened. But the angel said to him, 'Zechariah, don't be afraid. God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give birth to a son, and you will name him John'."

"He will bring you joy and gladness, and many people will be happy because of his birth. John will be a great man for the Lord. He will never drink wine or beer, and even from birth, he will be filled with the Holy Spirit."

"He will help many people of Israel return to the Lord their God. He will go before the Lord in spirit and power like Elijah... to make a people ready for the coming of the Lord."

"Zechariah said to the angel. 'How can I know that what you say is true? I am an old man, and my wife is old, too'."

"The angel answered him, 'I am Gabriel. I stand before God, who sent me to talk to you and tell you this good news. Now, listen! You will not be able to speak until the day these things happen, because you did not believe what I told you. But they will really happen."

          (Luke 1:5-20)


Why does the story of Christmas begin with John the Baptist?

In Roman Judaea, most Jews expected the coming of a 'Messiah' who would bring justice and judge both Jews and non-Jews. Many of them believed that this 'anointed one' of God would save them from the tyranny of Roman rule.

But before God's 'anointed one' came, most Jews expected the prophet Elijah to return to earth to herald the coming of God's Messiah. In the Jewish Scriptures (the 'Old Testament'), the prophet Malachi had specifically promised that Elijah would appear first: "But I will send you Elijah the prophet before that great and terrifying day of the Lord's judging." (Malachi 4:5)

At the beginning of the Christmas story, Zechariah serves as a priest at the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, high on a plateau in the Judaean Hills. In a vision, the angel Gabriel tells him that his elderly wife Elizabeth – who has been unable to conceive – will have a son, even though this seems impossible. He is told to call the child ‘John’ (meaning ‘God is gracious’).

The angel tells him that John “will be filled with the Holy Spirit” - God's powerful presence in his life - from birth. (Luke 1:15) He adds that John will “go before the Lord in spirit and power like Elijah” (Luke 1:17).

So John was destined to become a bold and inspired speaker like the Old Testament prophet Elijah who had been empowered by God’s Spirit living within him (see 1 Kings 17:1-16 & Matthew 11:13-14). John's mission was nothing less than to announce the coming of God's 'Messiah', the Lord Jesus Christ.

The photo shows the Western Wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the only surviving remnant of the Jewish Temple where Zechariah served.

You can read more @ The Bible Journey | John's mission foretold

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