So the last episode of Long Story Short left us on a cliff-hanger with ‘the silence’. We don’t seem to hear from God for a while now and the story comes to an end. Until a new beginning is birthed. Welcome to the New Testament.
Mary goes into labour and Jesus is born. Not only do we continue to unearth God’s character, but we’re introduced to the Son of God and the Holy Spirit.
Just as Daniel had seen, there were hundreds of years of waiting. Four centuries years of silence passes. The story stalls. Israel is left in limbo, with no word from God, waiting for deliverance.
We are here, waiting still.
It all begins with a Jewish priest, Zechariah, who lived when Herod was king of Judea… Zechariah and [his wife] Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations. They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old.
One day Zechariah was serving God in the Temple, for his order was on duty that week… While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John.
“He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord.”
Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.”
Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news! But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.”
Luke 1:5-8,11-13, 15-17
In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 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. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.
Mary was engaged to be married to Joseph. But while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her fiancé, being a just man, decided to break the engagement quietly, so as not to disgrace her publicly.
As he considered this, he fell asleep, and an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to go ahead with your marriage to Mary. For the child within her has been conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
A few days later Mary hurried to the country of Judea, to the town where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “You are blessed by God above all women, and your child is blessed. What an honour this is, that the mother of my Lord should visit me!”
Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back to her own home.
When it was time for Elizabeth’s baby to be born, she gave birth to a son. And when her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had been very merciful to her, everyone rejoiced with her.
When the baby was eight days old, they all came for the circumcision ceremony. They wanted to name him Zechariah, after his father. But Elizabeth said, “No! His name is John!”
“What?” they exclaimed. “There is no one in all your family by that name.” So they used gestures to ask the baby’s father what he wanted to name him. He motioned for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s surprise he wrote, “His name is John.” Instantly Zechariah could speak again, and he began praising God.
Awe fell upon the whole neighborhood, and the news of what had happened spread throughout the Judean hills. Everyone who heard about it reflected on these events and asked, “What will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was surely upon him in a special way.
His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:
“Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited his people and redeemed them. He has sent us a mighty Saviour from the royal line of his servant David.
He has been merciful to our ancestors by remembering his sacred covenant with them, the covenant he gave to our ancestor Abraham.
And you, my little son, will be called the prophet of the Most High, because you will prepare the way for the Lord.
You will tell his people how to find salvation through forgiveness of their sins.
Because of God’s tender mercy, the light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
and to guide us to the path of peace.”
At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire… All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.
And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.
That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Saviour—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognise him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished.
Jesus’ parents returned home to Nazareth in Galilee. There the child grew up healthy and strong. He was filled with wisdom beyond his years, and God places his special favour upon him.
Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. When Jesus was twelve years old, they attended the festival as usual. After the celebration was over, they started home to Nazareth, but Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents didn’t miss him at first, because they assumed he was among the other travelers. But when he didn’t show up that evening, they started looking for him among their relatives and friends.
When they couldn’t find him, they went back to Jerusalem to search for him there. Three days later they finally discovered him in the Temple, sitting among the religious teachers, listening to them and asking questions. All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.
His parents didn’t know what to think. “Son,” his mother said to him, “why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.”
“But why did you need to search?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they didn’t understand what he meant.
Then he returned to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. And his mother stored all these things in her heart.
Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favour with God and all the people.
A few years later, a message from God came to John son of Zechariah, who was living out in the wilderness.
John began preaching in the Judean wilderness. His message was, “Turn from your sins and turn to God, because the Kingdom of Heaven is near”.
John’s clothes were woven from camel hair, and he wore a leather belt; his food was locusts and wild honey. People from Jerusalem and every section of Judea and from all over the Jordan Valley went out to the wilderness to hear him preach. And when they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River.
One day Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, and he was baptized by John… and when Jesus came up out of the water, he saw the heavens split open and the Holy Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven saying, “You are my beloved Son, and I am fully pleased with you.”
The next day John saw Jesus coming towards him and said, “Look! There is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! He is the one I was talking about when I said ‘soon a man is coming who is greater than I am, for he existed long before I did… I testify that he is the Son of God.”
Luke 3:2-3; Matthew 3:2,4-6; Mark 1:9-11; John 1:29-30,34
Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit to go out into the wilderness, where the Devil tempted him for forty days. He ate nothing all that time and was very hungry.
Then the Devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, change this stone into a loaf of bread.”
But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People need more than bread for their life.’”
Then the Devil took him up and revealed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. The Devil told him, “I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them – because they are mine to give to anyone I please. I will give it all to you if you will bow down and worship me.”
Jesus replied, “The Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the Lord your God; serve only him.”
Then the Devil took him to Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He orders his angels to protect and guard you.’”
Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘Do not test the Lord your God.’”
Jesus returned to Galilee, filled with the Holy Spirit’s power. Soon he became well known throughout the surrounding country. He taught in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.
When he came to Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures. The scroll containing the messages of Isaiah was handed to him, and he unrolled the scroll to the place where it says:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has appointed me to preach Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the downtrodden will be freed from their oppressors,
and that the time of the Lord’s favour has come.”
Then he said, “This Scripture has come true today before your very eyes!”
From then on, Jesus began to preach, “Turn from your sins and turn to God, because the kingdom of God is near.”
One day as Jesus was walking along the shore beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers – Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew – fishing with a net for they were commercial fishermen. Jesus called out to them, “Come, be my disciples, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and went with him.
A little farther up the shore he saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, mending their nets. And he called them to come, too. They immediately followed behind him, leaving the boat and their father behind.
Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at his tax collection booth. “Come, be my disciple!” Jesus said to him. So Levi got up, left everything, and followed him.
Soon Levi held a banquet in his home with Jesus as the guest of honour. Many of Levi’s fellow tax collectors and other guests were there. But the Pharisees and their teachers of religious law complained bitterly to Jesus’ disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with such scum?”
Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor – sick people do. I have come to call sinners to turn from their sins, not to spend my time with those think they are already good enough.”
Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night. At daybreak he called together all of his disciples and chose twelve of them to be apostles. Here are their names:
Simon (also called Peter) and his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James, Simon, Judas, and Judas Iscariot.
Jesus travelled throughout Galilee teaching in the synagogues, preaching everywhere the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed people who had every kind of sickness and disease. News about him spread far beyond the borders of Galilee so that the sick were soon coming to be healed from as far away as Syria.
Large crowds followed him wherever he went – people from Galilee, the Ten Towns, Jerusalem, from all over Judea, and from east of the river Jordan.
Jesus and his disciples left Jerusalem and went into the Judean countryside. Jesus spent some time with them there, baptizing people.
Johns disciples came to him and said, “Teacher, the man you met on the other side of the River Jordan, the one you said was the Messiah, is also baptizing people. And everybody is going over there instead of coming here to us.”
John replied, “God in heaven appoints each person’s work. You yourselves know how plainly I told you that I am not the Messiah. I am here to prepare the way for him – that is all…For he is sent by God. He speaks God’s words, for God’s Spirit is upon him without measure or limit. The Father loves the son, and has given him authority over everything. And all who believe in God’s Son have eternal life.”
So God’s chosen one has arrived, after centuries of waiting. The heir promised to David, the righteous ruler promised to Jeremiah, the anointed one promised to Daniel, here he was in the flesh. God among the people, in person.
And we are here, in the presence of God.
Unless marked, all Bible text taken from New Living Translation,©2007