Luke, throughout this portion of his Gospel, having investigated with eyewitnesses, first-hand players in the unfolding events that led up to the birth of Jesus the Messiah, is bringing us into that story. And one of the remarkable things about the stories that Luke tells in the opening chapters and verses of the Gospel is that he pulls you into the story that he is telling you, and he asks you to make the same kinds of judgments that people in those stories are having to make about the events around them: Will you believe the word of God? Will you believe that Jesus is the Messiah? Will you believe that God himself has intervened into human history and has brought salvation in this remarkable way? Will you believe? In other words, you're not just a bystander listening to a good story. As Luke recounts for you this history, he tells this history in such a way that it puts you right in the middle of it so that you are being demanded to make either a response of faith or to reject the compelling power of the claims of truth that are being presented in this very gripping recounting of the history of the events that lead up to the birth of Jesus the Messiah.

I want you to see three things as we walk through this passage together. I want you to see something about the joy that was shared by Elizabeth and her friends and relatives. I want you to see something about the origin of that joy and the roots of that joy. I want you to see something about Zechariah's faith, and what he learned in those nine months of silence. And then, I want you to see, most importantly of all, the witness that God is establishing in this passage to Jesus Christ.

I. Joy

Let's look at the joy first. You see it described in verse 58,

"Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her."

Did you notice the way that Luke describes this? He doesn't say that her neighbors and relatives heard that she had had a child and rejoiced with her. He says, "Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her."

Do you see the difference? It's not just that she's had a child. This is not a matter of "luck" - of chance. This is the Lord's doing! The root of their joy was in the recognition that this was God's provision. God had done this thing. He was in the midst of it. Oh, yes, I understand she was advanced in age, and that would be all the more reason for them to recognize God's hand; but you understand that we always need to see God's hand in whatever has been provided us, because there has been nothing given to any of us that does not come from the hand of our heavenly Father, who is a good giver.

This is a reminder to us that the kind of joy that we ought to share together as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, whether it is at the birth of a child or in whatever other circumstance of life, ought to be rooted in our sense that God has provided.

It is the Lord behind this. The Lord is the one who has given her a son. Their joy was rooted in recognition of God's providence, and His goodness and kindness and mercy.

II. Zechariah's Faith

There's a second thing I want you to see in verses 59-64. When the people gathered for the rite of circumcision, they simply assumed that the boy was going to be named after his father, Zechariah. And Elizabeth, who has believed the angel, says, "No. His name is not going to be Zechariah. His name is going to be John." And the immediate response is against her. And so they turn to Zechariah and silently, he calls them to give him something to write on, and he writes out, "His name is John."

We see something, I think, of God's kindness in His dealing with Zechariah, because through that ordeal of silence Zechariah's faith in God's word has grown, and now he displays his faith in God's promise: "His name is John. The angel was right. His name is John. His name is not Zechariah." That adversity by the Holy Spirit had borne believing fruit in Zechariah's life, so that when the moment of truth came, he believes; and he writes out of that belief, and immediately the Lord looses his tongue. And the first thing that comes out of his mouth is the blessing and praise of God.

I want you to think about that for a few moments, because you may be wondering in your own adversity, "What is God doing? Why am I undergoing this adversity?" God never wastes adversity in the lives of His children. If you're God's child, there is no question that God has purposes for your adversity for your good, for His glory, for your growth in grace.

III. God's Witness To the Coming Messiah

One last thing. Look at the end of the passage. This is where Luke is going. What is the result of this child being born and the result of Elizabeth and Zechariah together being absolutely clear that his name is going to be the name given to them by the angel: John? The result is that everybody is amazed. "They all wondered." (Verse 63.)

And then verse 65:

"All these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts."

Doesn't that sound like Mary? Treasuring things up in her heart?

The result of all this is everybody was focused on the question of who this child will be? And that is precisely what God intended to do through this amazing providence that unfolded in the lives of Zechariah and Elizabeth in John: focus everybody on the question of who is this child going to be, and what is he going to do. He wants to focus their attention on that child because that child is going to focus their attention on another Child, and He wants the question "Who is this child?" to be on the minds of all the people in Judea because John is preparing the way for Jesus. And just as Jesus will look to the disciples and say to them at Caesarea Philippi, "Who do people say that I am?" and focuses them on the question "Who?" God is focusing all the attention of the people in the hill country of Judea on the question of who is this child, because that child is going to point to the Child who is Jesus.

In all this, Luke is unfolding a story in which God is unfolding His plan to point us to Jesus the Savior. By His grace and the work of His Holy Spirit, may we trust in Him.