Cleopas – Hearts on Fire

“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself…They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’” (Luke 24:27,32)

Why is it that the Scriptures remain “closed” to some people?  After all, there are plenty of scholars who have a vast amount of knowledge concerning the content of the Bible, but seem to remain spiritually unaffected by it.  What is the secret to not only understanding the Scriptures, but more importantly, believing them?

Cleopas and his companion certainly knew what the prophets had written concerning the Christ – that wasn’t the issue.  Jesus points out that they are “slow of heart to believe,” indicating that their problem is not a mental or intellectual one, but a spiritual one.  Even though Satan had just suffered his humiliating defeat at the hands of Jesus, he is still putting up roadblocks to the Gospel message in the hearts of these two men.

On the way to Emmaus, Jesus comes along and tears down these roadblocks.  As they walk with the risen Lord, a new understanding of Scripture comes into their hearts and their heads – an understanding not just of what the Scriptures say, but what they mean.  Their eyes are opened to how the promises God has been making to His people for thousands of years find their fulfillment in Jesus as the Lamb of God.

Unless Jesus walks with us, and we with Him, the Scriptures remain closed and empty.  He is the Word of God made flesh, and without Him the Scriptures are void of life or meaning.  Thankfully, it is not up to us to “find” Him in the prophecies and passages of the Old and New Testaments; He comes alongside us and walks with us as we read and study His Word, opening the Scriptures to us and opening our hearts to them.

The miracle of Jesus coming to us in the Scriptures is quite apart from ourselves or anything we can do to “make” ourselves believe.  Like Cleopas and his friend, we are all lost and hopeless without Him coming to guide us on the road of faith.  Our choice in the matter comes after this occurs, when we decide if we will continue walking with Jesus or take another road, pushing Him away.  Sadly, the Scriptures will remain closed to some forever because they continually walk away from Jesus as He comes to them on the road of His Word.  But the longer we travel by His side, the greater our yearning to have Him stay with us forever.

As the Holy Spirit reveals Jesus to us in the Scriptures, God’s promises burst forth in brilliant light and hope.  Then an amazing thing happens; the fire of the Spirit ignites a flame within our own hearts.  Our spirits burn with a zeal and fervor to share the news of our risen Lord with all those whom we meet, telling them what we have heard.  And as they hear the Gospel message, Jesus comes also to them, offering life and salvation by opening the fullness of His Word to their hearts and minds.

“When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.  Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him” (Luke 24:30-31)

Prayer: Lord God, as You feed and nourish me with the Bread of Life through Your Word, open my eyes that I may see You more clearly each day; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, my Lord.  Amen.

Joseph of Arimathea – Taking the Body of Christ

“Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action.  He came from the Judean town of Arimathea and he was waiting for the kingdom of God.  Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body.” (Luke 23:50-52)

Joseph of Arimathea was a man of true courage.  When Jesus’ own disciples were afraid to show their faces for fear of the Sanhedrin, Joseph stepped forward from among the ranks of the enemy and served our Lord by taking His body down off of the cross and placing it in an unused tomb.  Not only would this act defy his brethren on the Council and infuriate powerful leaders in Jerusalem, but it also broke with the custom of the time to leave the bodies of “criminals” without care or proper burial.  Joseph’s bold actions served as a witness and testimony to everyone that he was a follower of Jesus, the innocent Son of God.

Joseph’s renown as the caretaker of the body of Christ has endured even in secular society through the legends of King Arthur.  In these, Joseph is entrusted with the “Holy Grail,” a powerful artifact that is intimately connected with the body and blood of Jesus.  He is charged with passing down this task and mission to later generations; all the way down to Sir Galahad, who is eventually taken up into heaven by the power of the Grail.

Like Joseph, we have been entrusted with the care of Christ’s body, the Church.  Believing people throughout the world make up the members this body, and are united in Spirit under Jesus, our Head.  We have been given a monumental task to guard and protect this sacred vessel, preserving it for future generations as the place by which they come to the Father through His Son by Word and Sacrament.

Luke tells us that Joseph was “a good and upright man.”  Why does he say this?  What makes Joseph good and upright?  Joseph is moved by the Holy Spirit to come to the cross of Jesus, just as we are today.  Joseph is awaiting the kingdom of God, just as the saints today watch and pray.  And just as Joseph takes the body of Christ in faith and courage, so too do we come to the Lord’s altar and take Christ’s body, with His blood, for the strengthening of our faith and the endowment of His righteousness.  Doing this is the command of our Lord Jesus, and it is the testimony of our faith in Him as the Holy Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

“The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.” (Psalm 147:11)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, preserve Your Church through the preaching of the Gospel.  Help us to proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes again through faithfully partaking of His body and blood.  Let this testimony draw those around us to the cross of Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord.  Amen.

The Thief on the Cross – Jesus, Remember Me

“We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve.  But this man has done nothing wrong…Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Luke 23:41-42)

It is a curious thing that on Jesus’ most heroic day of His earthly existence, there was very little heroism elsewhere – especially in matters of faith.

It was a day for villains and cowards, and even those who had previously shown themselves to be great heroes of the faith faltered in those dark hours.  Rather than standing by their Lord in time of trouble and danger, Jesus’ disciples fled and scattered for the sake of their own safety.  His closest friends denied His name, swearing that they didn’t even know Him.  The administrators of “justice” made a mockery of their noble God-given authority to uphold truth and righteousness.  On that day, the masses of people cried out in anger for the blood of the Lamb of God.

But in this awful darkness, the testimony of one man shines out like a bright star in the heavens.  He was not a friend like Peter, not a student or follower like the disciples, not powerful like Pilate, and certainly not “righteous” like the leaders of the Jews believed themselves to be.  He was a poor, miserable criminal, justly condemned to die alongside Jesus.

During his brief time in the presence of the Word of God made flesh, this thief undergoes a dynamic change effected by the Holy Spirit.  God’s Law was written on this man’s heart, and he recognized his own sinfulness.  He confessed that he was being punished justly, but that Jesus was the innocent Righteous One of God.  The power of Jesus’ words and His very Being enables this criminal to make one of the most beautiful confessions of faith in all of Scripture by his modest plea: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Like blind Bartimaeus, this nameless thief demonstrates remarkable faith in Jesus’ power to forgive and redeem through his humble request for mercy.  And it is by this faith in God’s grace that the thief undergoes the Great Exchange; trading the punishment for his sin – the agony of death and Hell – for Jesus’ righteousness and innocence.  His assurance of this comes immediately after his confession in Jesus’ words: “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

Strengthened by the example of this heroic criminal, we come before God today and humbly ask for mercy.  We too cry out for the blood of the Lamb – not in anger against Him, but in contrition and repentance – asking God to be merciful for Jesus’ sake.  Like the thief on the cross, we can rest assured that Jesus will remember us in His kingdom where we will dwell with Him eternally.

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.  Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” (Psalm 51:1-2)

Prayer: Lord, forgive my sins and remember me in Your kingdom, for the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, my Lord.  Amen.

Mary – One Thing Needed

“…only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42)

“But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made…” (Luke 10:40)

Several times in the last few years, I have heard the era in which we are currently living referred to as “The Age of Distraction.”  This makes a lot of sense, given the plethora of media outlets, electronic devices, entertainment venues, and various industries that thrive by filling our spare time anything and everything to keep us busy doing something and nothing all at once.  It’s no wonder that it has become so difficult to get young people – or anyone for that matter – to focus on important issues.

But the truth is, the world has always had plenty of distractions to divert our attention away from God and what He wants us to be spending our time doing.  Honestly, it doesn’t take a whole lot.  Our sinful nature makes us predisposed to putting God last and a million other things first.  The issue here is the first commandment; giving our fear, love, and trust – as well as time, money, and attention – to God first.

It’s scary how easily we can slide down the slippery slope of idolatry.  The most frightening part is that this can even happen as we are trying to serve God.  We may feel justified in saying, “Well, I’m on the church council, teach Sunday School, serve refreshments after the service, and head up the altar guild; so I don’t think God will mind if I forget to read my Bible or talk to Him in prayer once in a while.”

But is that what Jesus wants?  “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).  In your walk with God, remember that He is primarily concerned with you.  He wants you to attend worship services so that He can work on you, not the other way around.  In His house, you sit and listen to the life-giving words of our Lord Jesus Christ, just like Mary.  You receive His body and blood through the sacrament of Holy Communion.  You receive the forgiveness of sins and are absolved of your trespasses.  God strengthens and preserves us in His Word.  We praise and serve God out of love and thankfulness to Him only after receiving the good gifts that He serves to us – otherwise we fall into the trap of trying to earn His favor by our own good works.

Martha certainly had good intentions.  However, the results of her efforts should have tipped her off the dangers she was facing.  Jesus came to bring peace and joy; Martha’s service caused her only to be “worried and upset.”  When we find that our own service to God is producing anxiety, resentment, or frustration in our hearts, we’d better take a time-out and sit down with Mary.  Listen to the Savior’s healing words.  Believe His promises.  Grow in the knowledge of His love; then return to your service, refreshed and invigorated, ready to serve Him with gladness and thanksgiving.

“He makes me to lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.” (Psalm 23:2-3)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me to fear, love, and trust in You above all things.  Restore to me the joy of Your salvation through the power of Your Word.  Help me to serve You with a cheerful heart; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, my Lord.  Amen.

Bartimaeus – Have Mercy on Me

“When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’” (Mark 10:47-48)

It must have been a motley crew following Jesus that day.  Among the crowd were Jesus’ disciples, as usual, staying close to their teacher and trying to learn whatever they could from Him.  There were, no doubt, a great many who were there to be healed of their sicknesses and demons.  More than likely, a fair number of them were following Jesus to glean from His wise sayings.  And of course, there were probably the ever-present Pharisees out to trap Jesus or try to prove Him wrong.

It’s funny how little times change.  Large crowds still follow Jesus, and it seems they are every bit as diverse today as they were two thousand years ago.  Naturally, Jesus’ modern-day disciples are among the crowd, still trying desperately to understand and hold fast to His teachings.  Then there are those who follow Jesus thinking He’s a bread king or a magic formula for health, financial success, or self-actualization.  Others today follow Jesus because of His wisdom, seeing Him as a moral teacher and no more.  Or they pursue Him for historical research, or as an interesting archaeological specimen, or as a juicy piece of material for their next movie or documentary.  And still others tag along because they can’t stand Him, and are waiting for an opportunity to argue Him out of the way.

And what about Bart?  Poor, blind, begging Bartimaeus wasn’t even able to join the crowd following Jesus around.  So what does he do?  He calls out to Jesus using the single most effective plea in all of Scripture: “Have mercy on me!”

Of course, this doesn’t fit with the rest of the crowd’s desires and expectations of Jesus.  There are plenty of “Shooshers” there to try to silence Bartimaeus, but he just calls out all the louder.  And you know what?  Jesus stops, turns, and calls him to Himself.

After all, Jesus wants to hear exactly what Bartimaeus is calling out for: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  Finally, someone who yearns for what Jesus came to give!  As it turns out, blind Bartimaeus saw who Jesus is more clearly than anyone else in the throng.  The proof?  Well, what does Bartimaeus do after Jesus heals him?  “Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.” (Mark 10:52)

Jesus will always pick that voice out of the crowd – the one that cries out to Him, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  That’s exactly what He’s listening for.  Until He reaches out and touches us with His merciful hand, we cannot really follow Him; at least not the way He wants us to.  As He heals our spiritual blindness and forgives our wretched sinfulness, He also enables us to walk with Him.  May we be the voice that leads everyone in the crowd to join in the plea: “Have mercy on me!”

“This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles.” (Psalm 34:6)

Prayer: Lord God, have mercy on me, a sinner!  Remove my blindness that I may walk with You always; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, my Lord.  Amen.

The Centurion – Just Say the Word

“Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.  But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.” (Matthew 8:8)

If anyone in Jesus’ day understood the meaning of authority, it would be an officer in the Roman military.  Perhaps it was the centurion’s position as a subordinate of more powerful commanders that gave him the sense of humility to confess his unworthiness before Jesus.  While it would have been easy for someone of his rank to become conceited and arrogant, he recognized that there were many others in the hierarchy of power who were above him – and he saw clearly that Jesus was over them all.  Being confronted with the kind of authority that was over his commander, his general, and even his emperor, the centurion is convicted of his own guilt and publicly professes that he is not fit to be in the Lord’s presence.

And yet, the centurion can relate to Jesus’ authority in one respect – he knows what it is to command: “For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me.  I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes.  I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it” (Matthew 8:9).  The centurion knows that his orders will be followed swiftly and obediently by his men.  But he also knows that his own authority has its limits.  While he can order his servant to “Do this” and the servant will obey, it won’t do any good for him to tell the servant, “Rise,” “Be healed,” or “Your sins are forgiven.”  Only the Word of power spoken by Jesus has the authority to accomplish these tasks.

It’s strange how the Roman centurion treats Jesus with the utmost respect and humility, while we ourselves often feel like we’re pretty big stuff – like we’ve been such wonderful Christian people that God owes it to us to grant this favor or answer that prayer the way we want.  In fact, this was the very mindset of those who came to Jesus on behalf of the centurion: “This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.”  But the centurion himself rebutted: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.  That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you” (Luke 7:4-7).  Like the centurion, we need to know our place.  We make humble requests, not haughty demands.

But the greatest thing we can learn from this Roman centurion lies in his model of faith for us.  Although he knows that he is completely unworthy of Jesus’ love and healing power, he appeals to Him in faith.  He trusts Jesus’ power so much that he is satisfied by His Word alone.  While many in his position would have expected the honor of such a dignified celebrity’s personal appearance, the centurion is blessed with faith that believes the power of Jesus’ Word without the necessity of seeing Him in person. (John 20:29)

The centurion’s faith – a faith which believed the promise of the Word without signs and without making demands – was able to amaze even the very Son of God.  As we are convicted of our own guilt and unworthiness through the Law, we can approach God for healing and cleansing from sin with humility and penitence.  As we trust in the promise of forgiveness through the Word, the Spirit works in our hearts to produce this same amazing faith – a most gracious gift from our merciful God!

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, give me the meekness and humility to accept the censure of Your Law and the faith to humbly trust the promise of Your Gospel, through Jesus Christ, Your Son, my Lord.  Amen.

Simon Peter – Because Jesus Said So

“Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.  But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” (Luke 5:5)

If you’re a parent, you’ve probably uttered these words at least once in your lifetime: “Because I said so, that’s why!”  This phrase is usually spoken in a tone of impatience, disgust, or even contempt.  After all, that we even needed to employ those words in the first place means that someone doesn’t trust us; they don’t see us as an authority worthy of respect, and we feel inclined to point out that the very fact that we told them to do something ought to be reason enough for obedience.

Simon, James, and John weren’t just a group of fishing buddies out throwing some casts and knocking back a few beers on a lazy Saturday; they were professional fishermen who spent nearly every day of their lives on the lake, trying to make a living.  They undoubtedly knew the times, locations, and tactics used to catch fish better than anyone, and they also knew where the fish simply weren’t going to be.  These guys were experts.

So when some carpenter comes along and starts giving them advice, it probably would have been easy to get somewhat miffed.  They’re tired from working hard all night long and probably a little crabby at the fact that they have nothing to show for all their effort.  Now some layman wants to come along and tell them how to do their job?  Most of us probably would have said, “Get lost, buddy!”

But Simon Peter catches himself as he starts to point out the obvious facts to Jesus.  He recognizes Jesus’ authority, even if it doesn’t seem to have any logical bearing on the present situation.  He announces, “Because YOU say so, I will let down the nets.”

We tend to think that we’re experts on a lot of things, even matters of spirit and ministry.  We know all the “right” ways to witness, all the best “fishing holes” for finding hearts with fertile soil for the Gospel seed, and just the right times to “let down our nets” and let the Gospel do its work.  But sometimes God calls us to cast out the net of His Word in situations that really don’t seem all that promising.  We look at the deep waters of a thoroughly secular society or a firmly atheistic acquaintance and say, “God, there’s nothing in there to catch.  I’ve worked all through the night in some of the ripest fields, trying to bring Your Word to sinners, and I’m tired of fruitless efforts.  Just let me go home and rest, mend my nets, and maybe another day I’ll try that part of the lake.”

Many times, we are called to bring the net of God’s Word to the fish.  But just as often, it seems, God asks us to let down the net and let Him bring the fish to us.  When we trust His authority and take Him at His Word, we will be amazed as we see the boat of the Church being filled with schools of people coming to faith by miraculous saving grace.  So cast away with reckless abandon, throwing your nets into whatever waters God directs you to – because He said so.  Even with all your skill and knowledge as a fisher of men, you will still get skunked every time without the Spirit’s help.  Let the One who created the lake and everything in it guide you to today’s catch!

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Prayer: Lord God, guide me in my ministry today.  Give me the faith to heed Your calling and proclaim Your Word wherever You direct me to do so.  Give me the courage to let down the net of Your Word, even in the deepest and darkest of waters.  Bring the multitude of those who do not know You safely into the boat of Your church, unto life everlasting; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord.  Amen.

The Paralytic’s Friends – Whatever it Takes

“When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’” (Mark 2:5)

If you’ve ever had a really close friend who was sick or injured, you know how hard it is to see them suffer.  Most of us would be willing to do almost anything for the sake of helping someone we love.  Imagine for a moment that one such person to whom you are very close is suffering from a terminally debilitating condition, and that an individual who could immediately heal them was close at hand.  What would you not dare in order to get this friend into the presence of that healer?

Now imagine that this friend of yours suffers not from a mere physical ailment or disease, but from a spiritual plague that is eating away at their very soul and threatening to cause eternal death.  Their condition worsens daily, and at any moment they could pass the threshold of physical death, where their malady would be beyond anyone’s help.  What would you not dare to get this person you love into the presence of the One who is able to heal him?

It’s strange how our hearts become overwhelmed with pity for the physical suffering of those around us, and yet we all know friends, relatives, or neighbors whose souls are in critical condition.  If any of these people were physically dying, we would be willing to carry them on foot for miles to whatever specialist was available, go to great lengths to attract the personal attention they need, and pay whatever price was demanded for their treatment.  But often, we neglect to get them the necessary spiritual treatment because we are ashamed, embarrassed, or reluctant to cause tension in our relationship with them.

The paralytic’s friends loved him very much.  They knew that only one person could heal him and restore the use of his legs.  And so, they were willing to do whatever it took to get him into Jesus’ presence, trusting in the merciful Lord to heal him.  What they didn’t realize is that Jesus came first and foremost to remove our spiritual disease of sin – a much more serious condition than even paralysis – and that they all needed His medical attention.  He then restored their bed-ridden friend’s physical capacities in order to show everyone present that He had the power and authority to remove even the most aggressive strains of humanity’s sinful disease.

If you have a friend or relative who is suffering from sickness or physical adversity, by all means bring them to the Lord in prayer for strength and healing.  But also realize that sometimes physical ailments are just what the Doctor ordered for our spiritual sickness.  Pray more so that God would use whatever adversity they are facing to bring them closer to Himself.

If you have a loved one whose spiritual health is on life-support, the best thing you can do is to take a lesson from the paralytic’s friends: Do whatever it takes to bring them into Jesus’ presence.  Then, trust in His mercy to heal and restore them.  Your job is not to work the miracle – but you can remove the barriers and bring them face to face with their risen Lord.  Only by Jesus’ grace, power, and authority will they arise and walk once more with Him.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we bring before you all those who do not know the joy of Your forgiveness.  Bend their hearts that they may turn to You in repentance and faith, receiving redemption and salvation through Jesus Christ, You Son, our Lord.  Amen.

John the Baptist – Preparing the Way

“And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luke 1:76-79)

John’s mother, Elizabeth, certainly “got it” when it came to God’s plan for salvation and what the Messiah was all about.  Zechariah, her husband, shows that he also understood exactly how God saves His people and what it means to be a hero of the faith.  He proclaimed that John, his son, would prepare the way for the Lord by telling the world of God’s forgiveness of sins through His great mercy.  As John prepared the way for Jesus’ ministry, he was preparing the people around him for the Way – Jesus Christ, the only Way to the Father.

John the Baptist’s ministry is summed up nicely in the Gospel of John: “He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe.  He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.  The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world” (1:7-9).  John could certainly have made a big deal out of himself, but he faithfully and humbly used all his resources to point everyone he met to the coming Messiah.  In a time when the Jews were looking for a political leader who would lead them once again to military and economic dominance, John rightly testified to the people what the work of Jesus Christ would really be – to suffer and die on their behalf, as a Lamb with blemish, for the forgiveness of their sins.

There may be no better hero of the faith than John the Baptist, because he shows us exactly what Christians ought to be doing in order to have an effective ministry.  John spends his days doing two things; preaching repentance and forgiveness, and baptizing all who come in faith.  He humbles himself before God and loudly proclaims Jesus as the only source of life and salvation.

As Christians today find themselves in spiritual deserts with parched souls around them thirsting for Living Water, they too can take up John’s mantle and “make straight the way for the Lord.”  We can prepare the hearts of our neighbors and communities to receive God’s Word by what we say and do.  We can correct in love and gentleness, calling our nation and our world to repentance and holding out to them the free forgiveness of sins won by God’s Son.  We can testify concerning the Light of the World and act as a lampstand to hold that Light up for all to see.  That is still what we are called to do as God’s heroes of the faith.

“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!…I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:29,34)

Prayer: Lord, help me to faithfully prepare the hearts of those around me, so that You may enter into their lives with life and forgiveness, through Jesus Christ, Your Son. Amen.

Elizabeth – Getting it Right

“Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” (Luke 1:45)

I’ll make it easy today; those words above are exactly what make Elizabeth one of the great heroes of the faith and our first example for the New Testament.  She professes precisely the same doctrine that Jesus Christ Himself would preach, and the same message that all of our heroes of the faith in the Old Testament pointed toward; we are saved by believing and trusting the promises of God!

It isn’t always easy to fully and immediately trust God’s words.  Elizabeth’s own husband, Zechariah, initially doubted the Word of the Lord through the angel Gabriel, and went without speaking for the duration of Elizabeth’s pregnancy as a result.  However, he and his wife become a united front in faithfully believing what the Lord told them when it came time to name the child, and God richly blessed them for their faith.

How wonderful that in a time of ceremonial laws and regulations a Godly woman would pronounce such a simple, compelling summary of the Gospel!  And what better time for this affirmation of salvation by grace through faith than at the first appearance of our unborn Lord?  Just as John and Peter would later be prompted to their own confessions by the power of the Holy Spirit, so too was Elizabeth filled with the Spirit and given the miracle of faith by which God would use her to speak His truth.

Time and time again, we see those who come into contact with Jesus doing exactly what Elizabeth first proclaimed to Mary on that day: They believe the words of God’s promised Messiah and are blessed with faith and life through Him.  The centurion, the paralytic, the Canaanite woman; all of them and many others confessed their faith in Jesus, believing in what He said, and received the blessings of physical and spiritual healing.  Many, like the thief on the cross, believed Jesus’ words of promise and were blessed with eternal life.

Elizabeth’s statement of faith is true for God’s people today all over the world.  God has promised to redeem and save all those who turn to Him in faith for forgiveness.  Believing that what He says will be accomplished, we look to the cross for salvation, proclaiming righteousness and life to all who trust this promise!

“I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11:25-26)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me to always trust Your promises.  Send Your Holy Spirit into the hearts of people all over the world, that they may turn to You in faith and live by grace, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord.  Amen.