Over 400 years after the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt, a priest named Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, lived near the city. They had been married for many years but did not have any children. One day as Zechariah offered incense in the temple sanctuary, the angel Gabriel appeared. Zechariah was frightened, but Gabriel said: ‘Don’t be afraid. I bring you good news from Jehovah. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give birth to a son and his name will be John. Jehovah has chosen John for a special work.’ Zechariah asked: ‘How can I believe you? My wife and I are too old to have a child.’ Gabriel said: ‘I have been sent by God to give you this news. But because you did not believe me, you will not be able to speak until after the baby is born.’
Zechariah stayed in the sanctuary longer than usual. So when he finally came out, the people waiting outside wanted to know what had happened. Zechariah could not speak. He could only make gestures with his hands. Then the people realized that Zechariah had received a message from God.
In time, Elizabeth became pregnant and gave birth to a baby boy, just as the angel had said. Her friends and relatives came to see the baby. They were very happy for her. Elizabeth said: ‘His name will be John.’ They said: ‘There’s no one in your family named John. Name him Zechariah, after his father.’ But Zechariah wrote down the words: ‘John is his name.’ At that moment, Zechariah could speak again! News about the baby spread all over Judea, and people wondered: ‘What will this child grow up to be?’
Then Zechariah became filled with holy spirit. He prophesied: ‘Let Jehovah be praised. He promised Abraham that He would send a savior, the Messiah, to rescue us. John will be a prophet, and he will prepare the way for the Messiah.’
Something special also happened to Elizabeth’s relative Mary. Let’s find out about this in the next chapter.
“With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”—Matthew 19:26