Scripture references: Luke 1:5–7, 36–45, 57–61
Date: 5 b.c.
Name: Elizabeth [ee-LIZ-uh-buth: “God is my oath”].
Main contribution: She gave birth to John the Baptist, whose prophetic ministry prepared for Jesus’ appearance.
Elizabeth was the wife of a priest named Zacharias. She was selected by God to give birth to John the Baptist whom Jesus called the greatest of the Old Testament prophets. John met the conditions necessary to be identified as the prophet whose appearance preceded the establishment of God’s earthly kingdom (Mal. 4:5, 6).
Luke gives Elizabeth’s lineage. Like her husband Zacharias,Elizabeth was a member of a priestly family. Luke took care to describe not only Zacharias’s character but also Elizabeth’s: “They were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless” (v. 6). This description does not imply sinlessness; it is a common formula that indicates a true heart-dedication to God. This is clearly implied in Luke’s later description of Elizabeth’s filling with the Holy Spirit when her relative, Mary, visited (1:41).Elizabeth was open to the Lord and sensitive to the revelation that Mary was to be the mother of a child who was Elizabeth’s Lord.
Elizabeth’s relationship with Mary (Luke 1:36–45). Mary and Elizabeth were relatives, quite possibly cousins. It was not unusual for the younger Mary to visit Elizabeth and stay with her for weeks or months. It is quite likely that the (until then) childless Elizabeth had a mentoring relationship with Mary.
Yet when Mary visited Elizabeth during the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy,Elizabeth realized that Mary had been chosen to give birth to the Messiah. Rather than exhibit jealousy at this role reversal,Elizabeth rejoiced at Mary’s calling.
InElizabethwe see a mature believer whose years of disappointment deepened rather than destroyed her faith.Elizabeth was able to maintain a close walk with God through many years despite unanswered prayer and also to maintain a close relationship with her husband. Her maturity was also displayed in her relationship with Mary, her much younger relative. When God revealed to Elizabeth the role for which Mary had been chosen,Elizabeth simply rejoiced with her, humbled at the privilege of being visited by the mother of One she recognized as her Lord. In each mention of Elizabeth, her maturity shone through.
From the account of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, it is clear that the babe in her womb was filled with the Spirit even before Elizabeth was. The nkjv says, “ ‘He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb’ ” (Luke 1:15). That “from” here means while in is proven by verse Luke 1:41. The niv translates this “from birth.” While subtle, the difference in meaning is important. It affirms the individual personhood of the unborn. God would hardly fill a mass of living tissue that is “part of the mother’s body” with the Holy Spirit. John was John, an individual with his own identity, even while in the womb.
Scripture references: Matthew 8:14, 15; Mark 1:30, 31; Luke 4:38 Bible Search Tool
Jesus was at Peter’s house incarnate. One Sabbath Peter’s wife’s mother developed a high fever. When Peter, Jesus, and those with them returned to Peter’s house, Jesus discovered the illness. Each of the Gospels includes different details, but they all agree that as soon as she was healed, Peter’s mother-in-law got up and served them.
The story, along with 1 Corinthians 9:5, has been used to point out that Peter was indeed married. It has also been used, along with ruins in Capernaum that have been identified as Peter’s house, to indicate that Peter was not just a fisherman but was also a businessman who operated a successful fishing business. However, the common features in each account have a different emphasis. These common features are the following: Jesus healed her, and she served them.
The response of Peter’s wife’s mother to her healing by Jesus acts as an example to each of us. When Jesus comes into our lives, cleansing and healing us from sin, it is fitting to thank and praise him. The most appropriate response of all is to serve Him.
THE SAMARITAN WOMAN
Scripture references: John 4:6–42 Bible Search Tool
Date: About A.D. 30
Main contribution: She believes in Jesus as the Messiah and introduced Him to her fellow villagers.
The woman Jesus met by Jacob’s well was a Samaritan. This alone condemned her in Jewish eyes and meant that no religious Jew would have any contact with her. It is no wonder then that the woman was amazed when Jesus spoke to her when she came to the well (see John 4:9).
In the conversation, Jesus’ intimate knowledge of her life convinced the woman Jesus was a prophet. When Christ identified Himself as the promised Messiah the woman believed. She hurried back to her village and told everyone about Jesus, and the people came out to see Him for themselves. The Bible tells us that “many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, ‘He told me all that I ever did’ ” (4:39). After listening to Jesus many more believed, telling the woman, “ ‘Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world’ ” (4:42).
As the two talked, it became clear the woman was living an immoral life. As Jesus told her, “ ‘You have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband’ ” (4:18). Like many today this woman was so hungry for love and a relationship that she welcomed anyone who would have her—even though there was no commitment involved.
Her relationship with the villagers (4:5–7). The text tells us that the woman came to the well “about the sixth hour,” or 9:00 a.m. She also came alone. This tells us much about the relationship this woman had with other villagers. Normally, early in the morning the women of a village went to the local well together. They carried their water jars balanced on their heads. The early morning walk to and from the well to get the day’s water was prime time for visiting. The Samaritan woman’s appearance alone at this late hour signified she was an outcast.
Jesus directed her attention to the “gift of God” (4:10). The real answer to the woman’s question lay in the identity of the One who spoke to her. Jesus was the One who came bringing “living water.” “Living water” meant running water, such as that which comes from a flowing stream. Only “living water” could be used in the mikvah (baptismal baths taken in Judaism to purify a person who was unclean). Christ had come with that gift of God that would purify believers from all sin.
When the woman expressed confusion (4:11-12) Jesus continued to speak symbolically. The person to whom Jesus gave His living water would never thirst, but have everlasting life. The water was a symbol of the Holy Spirit who would vitalize and give life to those whom Jesus had come to save.
Jesus asked her to “call your husband” (4:16). Jesus had initially asked for water because He was thirsty and needed a drink. He now set out to make the woman aware of her need. When she said she had no husband, Jesus revealed that He was fully aware of her situation and her moral state. The woman was exposed as a sinner who was in desperate need of the eternal life Jesus offered.
The woman changed the subject (4:19–24). When the woman realized that Jesus was fully aware of her immorality, she changed the subject by asking a theological question. When feeling convicted, many people tend to follow the path chosen by the woman. She acknowledged Jesus as a prophet—and raised a theological question that was a bone of contention between Jews and Samaritans. If Jesus had been an ordinary rabbi, He might have been distracted by this question. Most Bible scholars like nothing more than to display their knowledge!
But Jesus dismissed her question as irrelevant. The time has come to worship God in spirit and in truth, and God is seeking such people to worship Him in that manner. The issue isn’t theology; it’s a personal relationship with God.
The woman still hesitated (4:25). We can read the woman’s next remark as another attempt to put off a decision. “ ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When He comes, He will tell us all things.’ ” That is, “I think I’d just as soon wait for the Messiah to come for explanations!”
Jesus identified Himself as the Messiah (4:26). Jesus now announced: “ ‘I who speak to you am He,’ ” and the woman believed. Christ had led her to see both herself and Him more clearly. She had been exposed as a sinner and had recognized Jesus as a prophet—one of God’s spokesmen. She had been gradually, wisely, led to that point where she truly did believe.
Something happened in this woman who had discovered and believed in Christ as the Messiah. She had been ashamed and uncertain, and she had isolated herself from her neighbors. Now she hurried back to tell them about Jesus who had “ ‘told me all that I ever did.’ ” They listened to her, saw the change in her, and some believed because of her testimony. Most of the villagers went out to see and hear Jesus for themselves. When Christ enters a life, the change He makes opens doors that once were closed.
THE SAMARITAN WOMAN: AN EXAMPLE FOR TODAY
Sometimes we would rather argue the fine points of theology or doctrine than surrender ourselves to Christ. Our inner thirsts and hungers will only be quenched when we allow Christ to fill us with His living water.
The modern world detests sexual taboos and scoffs at them, calling them Victorian. People are bombarded with the message that anything goes between consenting adults, and increasingly “adults” is being translated as “past puberty”! Yet sin still creates an awareness of guilt, however we struggle to ignore it. There is no joy or satisfaction to be found in the practice of sin.
The woman at the well discovered something in accepting Christ that she had long yearned for. Jesus gave her the unconditional acceptance and love that we all ache for. What the woman sought in promiscuous sex she found through faith in Jesus.