Starting at Luke 1:5, this session focuses on the man God destined to "prepare the way of the Lord," John the Baptist (Is 40:3). He is the long-awaited son of the Zechariah
the priest of Abijah and the barren Elizabeth, an elderly couple who were "blameless before the Lord, following all this commandments and ordinances" (Lk 1:6)
The so-called "Little Annunciation" refers to Luke 1:8-22, when the Archangel Gabriel appears to Zechariah in the Temple and announces that Elizabeth will conceive of John. As he towers over Zechariah before the Altar of Insence, Gabriel proclaims that John will not only be a Nazirite who lives according to the ordinances of Numbers 6, but he will "be filled with the
Holy Spirit" from his mother’s womb and will fulfil the prophecies of the end of the Book of Malachi and Sirach 48:10. Moreover, he will
"turn many of the
sons of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before Him in the spirit
of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient
to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared."
When Zechariah questions the messenger of God, he is struck mute until John’s birth
for his lack of faith, but his tongue loosens at the remarkable naming of his
son. Now eight days old, John has been
the talk of the hill country of Judah for five months, for some of his neighbors marvel at him, others are frightened and all ask "What then will
this child be?"
Simply put, John is the greatest of all the prophets who effectively sums up all the
prophets and a saint of saints. All four
Gospels begin with John the Baptist as the herald and preparer for Christ. Intentionally consecrated for divine
intervention, John is filled with the Holy Spirit from within his mother’s
womb. The first prophet in 400 years,
his ministry of baptism and repentance was unique in all of Judaism quickly
attracts the attention of all of Israel.
Baptizing thousands primarily in the Jordan he even extends his ministry to
the Samaritans and is later captured ministering in the Northern country. His extraordinarily radical message condemns
the government for its injustice towards the poor and indicts the corruption within the priestly leadership. Underscoring the presence of grace and divine design in John’s life, Jesus
chooses not to begin his ministry full-throttle until after John’s death.
John’s ministry is relevant even today, for we must continue to prepare the way of the
Lord and do whatever possible to prepare ourselves and our people for salvation
by repenting and entering into the treasures of our Baptism.