Who was the first person to recognise Jesus?
Perhaps you haven’t given it any thought before now. Well, let’s take a look. In the midst of your Christmas preparations, let’s rewind to discover a lesser-known Christmas message.
We know that an angel first told Mary that she was pregnant with the “Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32).
We know that another angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and dispelled his fears that Mary had been sleeping around (Matthew 1:20-21).
They were told, with divine clarity, who Jesus was.
But in Luke 1:41-44, we read an account of the first person to independently recognise the Saviour… and astonishingly, he wasn’t even born yet:
“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.”
Elizabeth’s unborn son John the Baptist (Jesus’ cousin), at the fragile age of six months gestation, proclaimed in the only way he could that he had encountered Jesus. He booted his mum in the ribs, wriggling with sudden fierce joy.
I can’t tell you how much I love this!
I am repeatedly shaken wide-awake with awe by the way that our Author God has pieced together the gospel story so that every seemingly minor detail weighs heavy with meaning. Meaning for you and I to wring out and allow the run-off to drench our understanding of who He is.
The first person to independently recognise Jesus was an unborn child.
We know that God uses weakness. The Bible is full of examples where He takes the most unsavoury of characters – prostitutes, fraudsters, the dregs of society – and knits them into His story for His ultimate glory.
And here we have arguably the weakest, most vulnerable of all people groups heralding the impending birth of Jesus. Little pre-born John’s mum Elizabeth responds excitedly. She raises her voice. Joy oozes from her as the dawning of understanding through the Holy Spirit is articulated.
An unmarried, virgin, teen mother. Born in a cow shed. Shepherds dropping by in visiting hours. Angels. The family having to flee for their lives thanks to Herod’s barbaric decree that all first-born males be slaughtered.
They say truth is stranger than fiction! But the truth of Christmas brings value and redemption in so many glittering ways.
Does God love the unborn?
You’d better believe it! The Bible doesn’t overtly state that removing life within the womb is not OK. Some argue the grey areas of when a developing embryo is actually alive, when they transition from “blob of cells” to human. But I would say that there is abundant evidence of God’s immense love for the unborn.
He shows us, time and time again.
A good Author will show, not tell, you see.
He shows that value in the prophesies of the Scriptures. Lives foretold. Lives already ascribed value and purpose.
He shows us through the inspired poetry of people like David who penned heart-rending words describing a God who “knit me together in my mother’s womb” because we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.”
And He shows us in the mapping of history. Imagine if one of the people in Jesus’ lineage was discarded. No. That wouldn’t do. They are all important to the trajectory of the Gospel and God’s grace. Every. Single. One.
That message reaches out to us.
Jesus was an unborn baby; an unplanned pregnancy to an unwed teen.
And his unborn cousin leaped with joy in his mother’s womb in recognition of who He was.
And so, during this season we acknowledge that unborn and unplanned may bring heartache at first, but like the Christmas story, they lead to great promise and untold joy.