From the devotional Walking with Jesus by Dave Glock:
But the angel said to him [Zacharias], “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. . . . And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. 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.” . . . Then the angel said to her [Mary], “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.” (Luke 1:13 16-17, 30-33)
Gabriel, the angel sent by God to Daniel with the prophecy of the Seventy Weeks (Daniel 9:22-27), is now sent by God to Zacharias, and then to Mary. Four hundred and fifty years of the prophecy have passed and thirty-three years remain—the years of the life of our Lord here on earth. So Gabriel comes with the message of the miraculous conception of John the Baptist, and the even more miraculous conception of Jesus.
First, John the Baptist. It was the high, holy day for Zacharias. By custom, a priest could only serve once in a lifetime. Zacharias had waited long for this singular day. The privilege of offering the sacrifice was decided by lot, and by God’s design the lot fell to him this time. Gabriel waited as Zacharias entered the Holy Place with the ascending incense representing the prayers of Israel. He stood by the altar of incense, and his presence troubled Zacharias. Angels often begin their conversations with, “Do not be afraid.” While Gabriel’s appearing frightened Zacharias, his message shocked him.
“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.” (Luke 1:13)
This is the part of the message that Zacharias heard, as his delayed question will show. The rest of the message states the reason for the miraculous conception of John.
“And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. 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 1:16-17)
The ministry of John would be to prepare the nation of Israel for the coming King. In about thirty years his message would be, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
Zacharias missed the theological importance, the kingdom importance, of Gabriel’s message. He would have nine months to contemplate this with his impending loss of speech. He would then speak with great clarity as the priest becomes a prophet—but that, later.
Zacharias’s delayed question was not about theology, but biology.
And Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.” (Luke 1:18)
With delicacy the man who is old refers to the advanced age of his wife, Elizabeth. They had prayed long for a child, but they were now beyond the age of childbearing.
What do angels know? With astonishment at being questioned as a messenger sent by God, Gabriel responded curtly with a sentence of nine months of silence. Unbelief yielded, and John the Baptist was conceived in the womb of aged Elizabeth.
Gabriel’s second assignment relating to the birth of a child was even more amazing! It was to be a birth without a human father. It was to be a birth that would be a harmonious union of all the infinite attributes of God and all the limited attributes of perfect humanity in the one God-Man—the Savior, Christ, the Lord! This mystery of God manifest in the flesh remains a mystery to angels and humans alike. And yet faithful Gabriel comes with this message of amazing grace to a young maiden of Israel, Mary: “You have found favor with God.”
The message was full of kingdom theology. This is important. What kingdom? The answer in the text is very clear.
“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.” (Luke 1:32-33)
This was the beginning of the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7:12-13). It would be a literal, earthly, political kingdom—an eternal house, and throne, and kingdom. It was to be that fifth kingdom of Daniel’s prophecy, contained in that earlier message from Gabriel. The child to be born was from the kingly line of David; it was his throne He was to occupy. He was to reign over the nation of Israel. And His kingdom on earth would be permanent. This truth is restated on Triumphal Entry Sunday:
“Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:9-10)
Like Zacharias, Mary responds to Gabriel with a question—not a question of doubt, but a question requesting more information. The answer of Gabriel describes the special act of creation by the Holy Spirit within Mary.
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35)
Mary accepts this explanation and sweetly submits to the role that will make her the blessed of all women.
Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:38)
Mary is an example to all believers of submission to God’s purpose in our lives, with all the joys and sorrows entailed, even as blessed Mary the mother of Jesus experienced.
Two ladies, miraculously with child—the forerunner to the King and the King Himself!
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