Impossible Things, Part I
As I’ve read Luke’s account, I have often wondered why he would begin with John’s coming, instead of the Messiah, Jesus’ coming. And other than the obvious chronological aspect, I had not given it more than a passing thought, until I began to learn more about the prophecy in Malachi. According to this prophecy, the Messiah could not come until Elijah had come (Malachi 4:5-6). And since Elijah had been taken up into heaven via chariot of fire, the priests and Jewish leaders of that day expected him to return in the same shocking manner. (The Ante Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1, records a conversation between a believer, Justin Martyr, and a rabbi Trypho in 100 A.D. that highlights the dismissive attitude Jewish leaders held towards Jesus, due to John’s physical birth; it’s a fascinating read!)
So this man, Zachariah, was called to believe two impossible things, one that truly upset the beliefs of that day, and a second that directly impacted his own life. He was in a holy place, the Temple, burning incense to the Lord and praying. Then, with fear and awe, he receives a visit from the angel Gabriel. Zachariah was then told that he and his wife, both past child-bearing years, would have a child. And what a child! He would be the cause of rejoicing; filled with the Holy Spirit from birth; a forerunner in the spirit and power of Elijah, making ready a people for the coming Lord (Luke 1:13-17).
Yet of which two impossible things did Zachariah speak his doubt? That Elijah was coming? No, he spoke his disbelief that he could have a child at his advanced age. And he, a descendant from Abraham and Sarah, questioned God’s ability to bring forth life from an aging womb!
How often do we doubt our own abilities, instead of trusting in God’s fulfillment of these impossible things? But God was faithful, no matter Zachariah’s doubt, and brought forth both life from a barren womb, and a man with the spirit and power of Elijah; filling John with the Holy Spirit from birth. And by this, fulfilling the prophecy through John that Elijah had come, and that the Messiah was coming! As confirmation, Matthew wrote that as Jesus was coming down from the mount of Transfiguration, he addressed the disciple’s question about the fulfillment of Malachi 4:5:
And the disciples asked him, “Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” He answered, “Elijah does come, and he will restore all things. But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist. (Matthew 17:10-13)
And our ballast of belief in the impossibly wondrous things that are written in scripture is in His words. For faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). Let us hold fast to these impossible things, for they are right and true! And have hope in the prophecy that is spoken over all our lives. For He who has come, is coming again!