Summary: John the Baptizer had courage to confront the darkness in people's lives and to speak into their lives that he loved with tears in his eyes and compassion about their sin.
So now we’re gonna talk about John the Baptizer. It’s not John the Baptist. John wasn’t a Baptist. He’s a baptizer. Story starts. He had a dad. He had a mom. Most kids, that’s where the story starts. John’s dad, Zechariah, was a priest, served the temple, full-time ministry. John in some ways is a pastor’s kid. John’s got a mom as well. Her name is Elizabeth. Elizabeth is an old woman, and Zechariah is an old man, and they’ve had no kids. They’re barren, and there’s no hope of them having kids anytime in the near future, and it caused them some deep grief and some strife. You get the impressions as you read the accounts. What I’m going to do for you today is take basically the four Gospel accounts and compress them together into one story before we get into John’s Gospel, but I did write the verses down for you in the notes so you could check and make sure I’m not a heretic and all those good things.
You can do that. You can read this. We get the impression from the narratives that Elizabeth, his mom, was really grieved about not being able to be a mother, and that would make sense. In that culture, they had a way of thinking about family and children that is really antithetical to the way our culture views childrearing and kids. In our culture, children are an inconvenience that you postpone as long as possible, and if by chance you happen to have one, you do all you can to either adopt it out, abort it, or get rid of it. You don’t want to have kids because kids impinge upon your freedom, not in the Hebrew world. The Hebrew world, children are gifts from Almighty God. You’re happy to have a child. The more children, the more God obviously loved you, and so big, enormous families were the norm, and the more children a woman could have, the more blessed she felt by God, and so Elizabeth, at this point, has got a Godly husband who loves the Lord.
She loves the Lord. She’s never had a baby. She really would love to have a baby until one day Zechariah goes to serve with his division of priests at the temple, and his name gets chosen to go in and offer incense to the Lord. He’s offering incense to the Lord. He’s all by himself. All the other priests are outside praying, and something amazing happens. An angel of the Lord shows up to have a little conversation with Zechariah. He tells Zechariah, “Don’t worry. God’s gonna answer your prayers. You’re gonna have a son. You’re gonna have a little boy. He’s gonna be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb. He’s gonna be a prophet like Elijah. He’s gonna go out and preach to the entire world. He’s gonna reconcile families. It’s going to be unbelievable, and you’re supposed to give him the name John,” and Zechariah, maybe he had become optimistic on a few occasions and lost his hope. I don’t know what had happened to Zechariah, but Zechariah, for some reason, doubted almost like Abraham and Sarah. He just is at this moment where he can’t believe that God would give him a child, and so because of his doubt, the angel then reveals his name. He’s talking to the angel, Gabriel. He’s talking to the Michael Jordan of angels. It’s this great day for Zechariah. If you’re an old priest that’s lived sort of a dull life, and you get to meet the angel, Gabriel, that is Super Bowl Sunday, and Zechariah is just overcome. The angel then tells him, “But here’s the deal. Since you didn’t believe this was possible, you’re not going to be able to speak for the duration of your wife’s pregnancy. You’re gonna be silent. You shouldn’t have uttered words in unbelief. Now you won’t utter any words at all.”
And so for the duration of his wife’s pregnancy, he can’t say a word, and so he goes back, and Elizabeth ends up conceiving. She gets pregnant. This amazing thing happens, and I can imagine Elizabeth. I just was thinking about this in my head, this older woman being like, “Well, Lord, thank you for the two gifts. Thank you for the healthy child and the mute husband. Thank you, Lord, for both wonderful gifts,” because there’s nothing better than being pregnant with a husband who can’t say a word. That’s the best combination of all right there. She probably thought, “Thank you, Lord. You’re such a kind God. My husband’s quiet. My baby’s healthy. That’s all I ever wanted.” So Elizabeth has her dreams come true. She’s pregnant with a quiet husband, and something very interesting happens that she has a relative named Mary, young teenage girl that lives in a dumpy rural town called Nazareth.