A modern English blending of the New Testament

Everything Jesus said and did, nothing more, nothing less.

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Jesus - A blending of the New Testament - Ch. 1 - Birth of John
[Prologue] Next [2]




An angel appears to Zachariah  -  the announcement to Mary  -  Mary and Joseph are married  -  the visit to Elizabeth  -  John the Baptist is born.


During the reign of Herod the Great there lived in the province of Judea a priest of the Order of Abijah by the name of Zachariah. His wife's name was Elizabeth, and they shared a common ancestor, the High Priest, Aaron. They were a deeply religious couple and zealous in the practice of their faith. The major disappointment in their lives was that they were childless - Elizabeth being barren - and had now grown old.

It was common practice among the Abijah priests when it was their turn to serve in the temple to draw lots to determine what duties each would undertake. On this particular day it was Zachariah's responsibility to go into the temple to burn incense. The usual crowd of worshipers remained outside, praying.

In the midst of his duties he was suddenly overcome with fear: to the right of the altar he saw an angel. The angel spoke to him.

"Don't be afraid, Zachariah, your prayers have been heard. Your wife is going to have a child and you are to name him John. His birth will be a time of great celebration because he is destined to be one of God's great men. He will never touch liquor, and will be controlled by God's spirit even before his birth. He will be a messenger of God, with the strength and power of the prophet Elijah, reconciling parents and their children and restoring deserters to their faith. His mission will be to prepare a people for their Lord."

"But I am an old man," Zachariah said, "and Elizabeth is old. Are you sure?"

"I am Gabriel," the angel said, "and I have come directly from the presence of God to bring you this good news. But you do not believe me. So, from now until all I have said has happened, you will be dumb. Put your faith in God, Zachariah; in due time it will all come true."

In the meantime, the crowed waiting outside was growing impatient. Why was he so long delayed? When finally he did appear it was obvious that he had seen a vision. When he tried to speak, no sound came, so he communicated to them through gestures.

Afterward, when he had finished his duties in the temple, he went home.

It was not long before Elizabeth became pregnant. She kept the fact from her relatives and friends until the fifth month.

"How good God has been to me," she told them when she broke the news. "He has taken away the embarrassment I felt, and my sense of shame at being childless."

At the same time, in the town of Nazareth, in the province of Galilee, there lived a virgin by the name of Mary. She was Elizabeth's cousin and was engaged to a building contractor by the name of Joseph, a direct descendant of the ancient King of Israel, David.

When Elizabeth was in the sixth month of her pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Mary.

"Greetings, Mary," the angel said. "How favored you are! The Lord is with you."

Mary was puzzled. "I am favored by God? I don't understand."

"There is no need to be frightened, Mary," the angel said. "You have pleased God and he has chosen you. You are going to have a baby, a son. You are to name him Jesus. He will become a great man and will be called the Son of the Highest. God is going to place him on David's throne and he will reign over the House of Jacob forever."

"How can that be?" she asked. "I'm not married and I'm a virgin. . ."

"God's spirit will come upon you, his power will hover over you as a shining cloud, and your child will be God's holy son. Think of your cousin, Elizabeth - the one they call the Barren One. You know how old she is and you know she has never had children; she is now six months pregnant. God can do anything."

"I am his servant," Mary said. "Let it happen." And the angel left her.

Before they were married, Joseph learned that Mary was pregnant. He was an honorable man, and not wanting to see her publicly disgraced, he planned to break off the engagement quietly. While he was considering what course to follow, he had a dream and in the dream an angel appeared.

"Joseph, you must be not afraid to marry Mary," the angel said. "Her child was conceived by God's spirit. When he is born you are to name him Jesus, which means 'Savior,' because it is he who will save his people from their sins."

All of these events were the fulfillment of a prediction by the prophet Isaiah who, hundreds of years earlier, had written:

There! - a virgin shall have a child.
The child shall be a son
And the son shall be called Immanuel. 1

When Joseph awoke he did as he had been told. He married Mary but had no sexual relations with her until the baby was born.

Early in her pregnancy Mary went to Judea to visit Elizabeth. As they came face to face, Elizabeth felt her baby move within her.

"Oh Mary," she cried, "how marvelously God has blessed you, singling you out from all the women of the world. And how he has blessed your baby! And how honored I am; having my Lord's mother in my home. Mary, the moment you said hello I felt my baby move. How happy is the women who trusts God to keep his promises!"

Mary replied with an outburst of thanksgiving:

"All that is within me praises God, my savior.
My heart overflows with happiness.
For he has designed to notice me - a nobody -
And now, forever, the world will recall my good
And think of me as the woman God favored!
The almighty has done great things for me. . .
Holy is his name!
Through every generation and from age to age
He has shown kindness to those who revere him.
How mighty his arm is!
How he routs the proud and the haughty!
How he deposes kings and elevates the ordinary!
The hungry approach and he satisfies them-
But the rich go away empty-handed.
And now he has come to Israel's help!
His promise of mercy has not been forgotten:
The promises he made to our forefathers.
To Abraham and his descendants. . .
Forever and forever."

Mary stayed on with Elizabeth and Zachariah for three months and then returned home to Nazareth.

Elizabeth's baby was born. When the word went out that she had had a son, her home was filled with relatives and friends celebrating God's goodness.

When the baby was eight days old, they took him to the temple to have him circumcised. The relatives assumed that the child would be named Zachariah after his father, but Elizabeth said, "No, he's to be named John."

They turned to Zachariah, making signs, and asked him to indicate the name he wanted. He gestured for something to write on, and they handed him a writing tablet. To their surprise he wrote, "His name is John." As he did, his voice was restored and, filled with God's spirit, he began to shout:

"Praise be to God!
Thanks be to the Lord of Israel!
He has come to us to bring deliverance.
He has raised up a mighty Helper,
The very author of salvation
For all the descendants of his servant, David.
It is just as the holy prophets predicted
From even the most ancient time:
That we would be delivered from our enemies
And from those who persecute us.
God has confirmed his covenant of compassion,
The pledge to Abraham and his heirs,
That, having been delivered from our enemies,
We might serve him without fear
And grow to goodness and to righteousness,
Living each day of our lives in his presence.
"And you, my little son:
You shall be called 'The Prophet of The Highest.'
You shall be a herald for our Lord,
Preparing the way for him,
Teaching salvation through forgiveness to his people,
Through the loving compassion of our God.

"Heaven's dawn is about to break
Bringing light to those in darkness,
To those beneath Death's shadow.
It will light our feet in the path of peace."

The neighbors were filled with a sense of awe. The events of the day were repeated throughout the hill country of Judea. When they heard the story, people were amazed.

"Who will this baby grow to be?" they asked, for it was obvious that God's power was with him.

The years passed and John grew physically and spiritually. He left home and went out to the desert country where he lived alone until the time came to begin his public ministry.

(1)   Immanuel means "God is with us."

[Prologue] Next [2]