(Study Outline sourced from “The System Bible Study” – “The Book of Life” [ Zondervan])
4. THE BIRTH AND CHILDHOOD OF JOHN AND JESUS
(1) The Annunciation to Zacharias
“But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous– to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” . Luke dates the annunciation to Zacharias as “the time of Herod king of Judea” , and history records that Herod the Great reigned from 37-4 B.C., the time referred to here could be between 6 B.C. – 6 A.D. . “Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John” – the name meaning “The Lord is gracious” could be in response to the prayer of Zacharias and Elizabeth in regards to the fact that Elizabeth was barren ; “And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah” – the fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy , as he prepares the way for Israel’s coming Messiah . John was not Elijah, but he functioned like Elijah and was therefore a fulfillment of the prophecy, serving in“the spirit and power of Elijah”
(2) The Annunciation to the Virgin Mary
“You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”
“You will be with child and give birth to a son….. give him the name Jesus.”. The annunciation to Mary was in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy ; Luke states the Mary was a virgin pledged to be married to Joseph, Jewish custom was that there were no sexual relationships during the betrothal period hence the term virgin. Scripture makes it very clear that Mary was a virgin so as to establish the fact that Jesus Christ was not born due the act of a human father, thus the statement – “So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” – the birth was a result of the act of the Holy Spirit of God (the sin nature is passed on by the father) <see Ex.20:5; 34:7; Rom.5:12>. It was necessary that Christ should not inherit the sin nature because He was to become the sinless sacrifice for the sin of the world
(3) The Song of Elizabeth:
“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear…Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”
(4) The Magnificat of Mary Magnificat [Latin] = glorifies
“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…..for the Mighty One has done great things for me– holy is his name.”
(5) The Birth of John The Baptist
“his mother spoke… ‘He is to be called John’….his father…wrote, ‘His name is John’”. It was an accepted Jewish custom in that time that a child should be named after some relative or family member , in this case there was no one in the family named John. The incident of Zechariah’s ability to now speak caused their neighbours and friends to be “filled with awe” and everyone began to wander and ask, “What then is this child going to be? – not understanding or comprehending that God would use John to prepare the nation for the coming of their Messiah.
“His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied: “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. 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,”
“Praise be to the Lord”: “…he has come and has redeemed his people… He has raised up a horn of salvation” – a proclamation of God’s word stating what was about to take place: “…for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him” – a further proclamation indicating Zechariah’s understanding of what God was about to do. John’s service for God was to prepare the way for Messiah by preaching salvation and repentance from sin so that the people could serve God in holiness and righteousness. John grew and lived in the desert , no doubt due to the death of his aged parents, and also to fulfill his Nazarite vows as was indicated to Zechariah by the angel for his coming in “the spirit and power of Elijah” . Zechariah also indicates in his song that “the rising sun will come to us from heaven” – Jesus Christ, the Messiah, was about to be born into the world as a human baby for the express purpose – “to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death” – those who are lost and separated from God by sin.
(6) The Annunciation to Joseph
“This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.”
“….but before they came together….”: the birth of Jesus The Christ was carefully planned by God The Father from the time of the creation of the universe, and more specifically, when Adam and Eve fell into sin. The promise was given in response to the sin of the woman (Eve) when God cursed the serpent , and from that moment onward, God began to prepare the way for Christ to be born into the world, . The human birth of Christ was for a specific purpose – “to redeem those under law”, for the promise given to Adam and Eve, and therefore all mankind, had the underlying purpose of redeeming mankind from the slavery of sin in which all their descendants are born . The OT Law was given to show to all that mankind is incapable of holiness before God, making the necessity for a sacrifice or offering for sin, and these sacrifices, and specifically the “Sin Offering” was instituted . The Sin Offering was a mandatory atonement for unintentional sin and was to be a “young bull without defect” , and typified the atonement that Christ would make for all sin on a future day. Christ, therefore, had to be “without defect”, that is, He had to be sinless in order to meet the requirements of the Law, thus he could not be born of natural descent or of human intervention, and Mary “was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit”.
“Joseph her husband….. had in mind to divorce her quietly.”: Joseph had in mind to divorce Mary because he knew that he was not the father of her child, so the Lord appeared to him in a dream confirming to him that Mary’s child was conceived “from the Holy Spirit” , that is, God is His Father. The sinful nature enters the human race through the father <see Rom. 5:12 – “through one man”; c.f. Ex. 34:7>, therefore, for Christ to be sinless He could not be born of a human father, since His birth was for the specific purpose to “save his people from their sins” . Matthew states that this was a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy , and at this Joseph awoke from his dream and obeyed the command of the angel to take Mary home as his wife, but being careful to add “he had no union with her until she gave birth..” , giving emphasis to the fact that God would not allow the “Holy Seed” to be contaminated by any human intervention.