JOY – for Zechariah and Elizabeth

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

As we approach Christmas this month, we will look for those who found JOY.

Zechariah and Elizabeth, like Abraham and Sarah, had reached old age without a child. Why think of them at Christmas? Their story sets the stage in Luke’s gospel.

Zechariah was born of the the priestly line, so twice a year Zechariah and other priests in his division took a turn to spend one week in Jerusalem. They did jobs in and around the Temple, cleaning the brass bowls and gold cups, etc. One of their group would be chosen by lot to enter the holy place.

On this occasion, Zechariah was chosen for this distinct honor to supply the incense before the morning sacrifices and after the evening sacrifices.

When he walked into the holy place for his special duty,

. . . an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. Zechariah was startled and gripped with fear. But the angel said, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy and a delight to you, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.” Luke 1:11-15a 

The angel also said that this son was to take special Nazarite vows and would be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. He will bring many people back to the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah! Wow. Surely this made Zechariah rejoice with gladness. But, with doubt, he asked the angel,

“How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” Luke 1:18

The angel let Zechariah know right away who he was talking to.

“I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God and I have been sent to tell you the good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words.” Luke 1:19-20

The people outside were wondering why Zechariah was in the holy place so long. When he came out, he gestured trying to tell them what had happened. They realized he had seen a vision. 

We aren’t told Elizabeth’s immediate reaction, but we can imagine her great JOY after all these years of wanting a child. Obviously something miraculous had taken place. 

After she gave birth, the people assumed they would name the baby after his father. “No!” she said. “His name will be John.” The people questioned Zechariah. He wrote on a tablet, “His name is John.”

With that declaration, that obedience, he immediately was able to speak and he praised God. His JOY burst forth into a song, the words recorded in Luke 2:67-79.   

 When John grew to become a man, he was known as John the Baptist because he preached repentance and baptized many. He proclaimed the coming of the Messiah.

~ Joyce ~ 

Peter – Walking on Water

            Searching His Word
                       Seeking His Heart

As we come to that familiar passage where Peter walks on the water, we must remember that he has come a long way in his experiences with Jesus.

Peter has watched Jesus heal many—the demon possessed, a leper, the deaf, the blind, a centurion’s servant, even his own mother-in-law. 

When Jesus sent the disciples out two by two to preach, He empowered them to heal. Excitedly, they came back to report in, but their report took a back seat as Jesus dealt all day teaching a large crowd. 

At the end of the day, this crowd of 5,000 was fed by two fish and five loaves of bread. 

After this miraculous feeding, Jesus sent the disciples out in a boat while He dismissed the crowd and stayed on shore to spend quiet time in prayer.

After meditating for a while, Jesus looked up to see a storm brewing. The disciples’ boat rocked back and forth in the wind and waves. In His humanity, Jesus walked to the shore, but the divinity of Jesus took over and He walked on the water toward the boat. 

When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 

At this point, spontaneous Peter sprang into action.

“Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” 

“Come,” Jesus said.

That was all he needed. Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. Yeah, Peter, you did it!

Uh-oh, here comes the “but.”

But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Happens to us all, right? When he saw the wind, he took his eyes off Jesus. How often have we done that? We get all hyped up about doing something important, even something spiritual, and walk toward Jesus, but then get distracted. We begin to doubt. We lose faith. The very things Jesus told Peter.

“You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:26-31

Jesus caught sinking Peter and they climbed in the boat. In spite of Peter’s actions, two things happened;

… the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” 

We can feel for Peter and say, “At least he tried.” That’s true, but my take-away from Peter’s experience is remembering how I can get so entangled by distractions, that I take my eyes off the main source of my strength.

When we take His outreached hand, two things happen, the winds of doubt die down, and we worship Him in awe.

~ Joyce ~