Few people understood why Jesus came when he was an adult. Fewer still recognized him as the Savior when he was a baby. The shepherds, of course, because they were told by the angels. The wise men who had been watching the skies and came to worship the toddler Messiah. Simeon and Anna, who saw him at the temple and had been waiting for the consolation of Israel, and recognized Jesus as the Savior of the world when he was a newly circumcised 8-day-old baby.
But do you know who was the very first person recorded in Scripture to recognize Jesus for who he was? The answer might surprise you.
It was Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist.
Mary visited her when both women were pregnant. Elizabeth, nearly into her third trimester, would have been gladly boasting a swollen belly, one she’d been waiting for many years to have.
But Mary, maybe only a few days after the wondrous experience of being overshadowed by the glory of the Most High probably appeared to most eyes to be the young maiden she’d always been.
Elizabeth knew different.
For the first time in about 400 years, an individual was filled with the Holy Spirit and that power and glory flowed out of her mouth, as it had the mouths of the prophets centuries earlier. The silence of God was broken, not by a prophecy in the temple, or the cry of a baby in a manger in Bethlehem, but by the words of a wife and expectant mother going about her ordinary day.
“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? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (Luke 1:43-45)
It makes me wonder. I’d like to think that if I’d been alive during Jesus’ ministry, I would have been one of the women who followed him. I’d even like to imagine that I could have been Anna, noticing a glimmer of something different in the eyes of baby Jesus. But could I be an Elizabeth? Am I sensitive enough to the God’s leading to recognize a prenatal, even embryonic Jesus in the glow on a teenage girl’s face?
As I see the things that are happening in the world around me, and wait expectantly for God to fulfill his last promises to us, I watch and pray, desperately longing to be like the humble priest’s wife. When my parents named me Amy Elizabeth, they had no idea what the future held for me. They had no idea I would marry a pastor, or that we would plant a church. They just thought it was a pretty name.
But I hold tight to the biblical legacy they gave me, hoping I’ll be led by the Holy Spirit enough that when Jesus walks though my door, not in the womb of an obedient Jewish girl, but in the broken single mom, or the grieving neighbor, or lonely child, I’ll recognize him for who He is.