Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Good News is Contagious

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come
 to his people and redeemed them.” - Luke 1:68

It wasn’t the shot heard around the world. It was far more important than that. The news that the angel Gabriel shared in Luke 1, foretelling the births of John the Baptist and Jesus, has echoed through the centuries. And it will continue to ring through eternity: the good news of Jesus Christ, the savior who came to rescue all of us from our sins.

Shortly after receiving God’s message from Gabriel that she would be the mother of the savior, Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who was to be the mother of John the Baptist. When she arrived, she walked through the front door and greeted Elizabeth. What happened in verse 41 is one of the most remarkable events in this chapter: “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Now, let’s be honest with each other: Pre-born babies kick and poke and stretch. But they don’t usually leap. And babies in their mothers’ womb do have the ability to experience emotion. But experiencing joy—that seems like a bit of a stretch. How was this possible? 
Well, it was possible because of the Holy Spirit. Luke makes it clear that Elizabeth became filled with the Holy Spirit after John leaped. So, it stands to reason that John leaped because he too was filled with the Holy Spirit. 

The angel Gabriel had told Zechariah back in verse 15 that John would be “filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth.” The New American Standard Bible translates this phrase more literally: “He will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb.” So, at what point during Elizabeth’s pregnancy did the Holy Spirit fill John the Baptist for the first time? In all likelihood, it happened right here in verses 40 and 41—the moment when Mary entered the room with Jesus inside her womb. The Holy Spirit responded by filling both John and Elizabeth, confirming that the King of Kings and Lord of Lords was in the house.

The meaning of John’s leap was clear to Elizabeth. She responded with great joy: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (vs. 42b-43) Elizabeth knew things about Mary’s pregnancy and baby Jesus that Mary had never told her—because the Holy Spirit told her. And Elizabeth’s joy was contagious. Mary, who was likely filled with the Holy Spirit herself, began speaking a beautiful new psalm to God, widely known as the Magnificat. It begins, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant” (vs. 47-48).

If you and I had been in the room with Mary and Elizabeth on this day, their joy would have been palpable. These two were beaming. They were rejoicing in what God was doing, and they just couldn’t help themselves. But how was Elizabeth’s husband Zechariah dealing with the good news?

Months earlier, Zechariah was in the doghouse. He had been the first person the angel Gabriel appeared to with the good news—but he didn’t believe it. So, God disciplined him. For nine long months Zechariah was mute. At last Elizabeth’s baby boy was born, and on the day of his circumcision, the baby was to be named. Family members assumed the baby would be named after Zechariah, or another male relative. But instead, in obedience to Gabriel’s message months before, Zechariah wrote on a tablet: “His name is John.”

And with that, Zechariah’s mouth was opened, his tongue was set free, and he could speak again. And once he could speak, what did he do with his tongue? He used it to praise God. At the start of the chapter, Zechariah responded to God’s good news with unbelief. But he had learned his lesson. By the end of the chapter, Zechariah reacted to God’s good news with a psalm of praise that’s often called the Benedictus. It includes the words, “And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins” (vs. 76-77). Yep, it’s pretty clear that Zechariah had gotten the message.

I think we’ve all been like Zechariah. In the past, we responded to God’s good news with unbelief. But today is a new day. It’s time to respond with faith and praise. If Zechariah could speak to us today, he’d probably say something like this: “Don’t make the same foolish mistake I made when I was standing there in the temple and refused to believe the angel standing right beside me. Nothing is impossible with God. When you receive God’s good news, receive it in faith and praise Him. Because our great and awesome God is good, and He is strong, and He is worthy of praise.”

Dane Davis is the Lead Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information, visit  and join us for National Back to Church Sunday, Sept. 16th at 10 a.m.

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