Who Will This Miracle Baby Turn Out to Be?
I’ve always enjoyed the birth narratives from the Bible. The book of Matthew and the book of Luke give us two incredible and complementary accounts of the birth of Jesus. We read of a baby born to a virgin, a man named Joseph who remains faithful to his betrothed, a manger scene, kings from the east bearing gifts and bowing before the baby, and of course, an angel appearing to shepherds as they watched their flock by night.
It’s one of those stories that beat the odds. We find ourselves rooting for the baby who was born in such lowly conditions. It was an event that impacted the course of human history with a magnitude far beyond anything the builders of that humble stable ever imagined.
Within this spectacular story, it seems only natural that we should read these words “…they were all astonished… Fear came on all those living around them, and all these matters were being talked about in all the hill country of Judea. All who heard them kept them in mind, saying, “What then will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was certainly with him.” (Luke 1:63-66)
If you didn’t know the rest of the story and you actually witnessed this event – seeing the star, learning of the virgin birth, and watching wise men worshipping the baby – wouldn’t you be asking, “What will this child become?”
Wouldn’t you be astonished? Wouldn’t you tell everyone what you had seen? There’s just one problem.
These particular words weren’t spoken about Jesus. They were spoken in regard to His relative, John, the son of Zacharias and Elizabeth.
John, Prophet of the Most High
You might know him as John the Baptist. You might know about him because he was the voice crying in the wilderness. You might know him as the guy who lived in the desert, clothed in camel’s hair, with a diet consisting of locusts and wild honey. You might know him as the guy who preached repentance, forgiveness, and salvation. You might know him as the guy who baptized Jesus. You might know him as the guy who was beheaded by Herod.
You might know about him, but do you understand John? Do you understand John’s purpose? How, exactly, did he prepare a way for the Lord? Didn’t Jesus preach the same things: repentance, forgiveness, and salvation?
For centuries, the nation of Israel had been waiting for the Messiah. They had expectations of who this Messiah would be and what he would do. They had anticipated a great political leader, descended from the line of King David. They expected this leader to live and thrive in the world. He was going to re-establish the kingdom of Israel as a nation. He would make it a powerful center of the world. He was going to be a great military commander that would defeat the oppressors of the nation. This Messiah would even rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem and bring world peace. The nation of Israel was eagerly, and in some cases, zealously anticipating a mighty Deliverer to save them from their bondage.
The Promise of John the Baptist
Take a look at Luke 1:5-20. In these verses, we read the story of Zacharias receiving Word from the angel Gabriel about the miracle baby, a son to be born to his wife who had been barren to this point. Zacharias and Elizabeth are described as righteous in the sight of the Lord and as having walked blamelessly. They are described in terms very similar to Abraham and Sarah. God commanded Abraham, “walk blameless before Me.” (Genesis 17:1) Elizabeth, like Sarah, was barren well into old age.
Gabriel gives Zacharias a description of the man his son, John, would become.
- Many would rejoice at his birth (vs. 14)
- He’ll be great in the sight of the Lord (vs.15)
- He will drink no wine or liquor (vs 15)
- He will be filled with the Holy Spirit while still in his mother’s womb (vs. 15)
- He will turn many sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. (vs. 16)
- He will be a forerunner of Jesus (vs. 17)
- He would be that forerunner in the spirit and power of Elijah (vs. 17)
- He would turn the hearts of fathers back to the children (vs. 17)
- He would turn the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous (vs. 17)
- He would make ready a people prepared for the Lord. (vs. 17)
Let’s take a closer look at the last two statements from vs. 17. Let’s pull out a few very powerful words here: “attitude” and “make ready a people”.
Are We Prepared for Jesus?
In one of the ministries I’ve been involved in for the last several years, we speak a lot about being F.A.T. = Faithful, Available, and Teachable. John the Baptist had an incredible role in Jesus’ ministry. It was, in fact, a role that few would envy. No one is ever teachable until they are first available. Being available goes deeper than mere proximity. Availability has far more to do with your attitude. If your attitude is one of disobedience, you’ll always be shut off from instruction and guidance.
John was tasked with preparing a disobedient people by making them available in both proximity and attitude. It was only then that they could be considered teachable.
But why did John need to make the people ready? Didn’t the nation have a long history of waiting for the Messiah? Weren’t they already ready?
The answer to the last question is a resounding, “No!” In fact, they weren’t ready. They were ready for a king to make life easier. They were ready for all their enemies to be destroyed or laid under their feet. They were ready to reign and rule with a great and mighty king here on this earth. They were ready to be esteemed among the nations. They had no problem with a savior. They had no problem with a deliverer. The issue was that they weren’t ready for Lordship by a humble servant who would ask them to also be humble servants.
So, What’s the Play CalL?
During the season of Advent, there is a lot of talk about being ready. We’re ready to welcome the baby Jesus. We’re ready to welcome the Savior. We’re ready for the Prince of Peace. And, even beyond Advent, we talk about being ready to receive forgiveness. We speak of Jesus as “Lord of All Creation.”
What happens, though, when the message moves from being forgiven to forgiving those who hurt you? What happens when the message moves from Jesus the Savior to Jesus the Humble Servant who asks us to walk in His ways? What happens when the message moves from a baby in the manger to a sacrificial lamb who calls His people to live sacrificially? What happens when the message moves from Jesus being “Lord of All Creation” to being “Lord of your life”?
John didn’t go as a forerunner to prepare everybody to simply receive salvation and forgiveness. He didn’t go to simply prepare everyone for the Prince of Peace. He cried out a message of repentance to “make ready a people” prepared for submission to Jesus’ Lordship. No wonder the people should be astonished at his birth. No wonder they should ask “What then will this child turn out to be?”
In your personal Bible Study time, read the full account from Luke 1 of Zacharias, Elizabeth, and John [vs.5-25, 39-45, 57-80].