While still in her womb, John helped his own mother prepare for the coming of the Lord. She then encouraged Mary in her preparation for the coming of the Lord, the One she was carrying at that time. After Elizabeth’s encouragement, Mary breaks out into song, the Magnificat, uttering words that have not only instructed and encouraged millions of people throughout Christian history as they prepare for the Lord, but which also definitively answer the question immortalized in another song, “Mary, Did You Know?” Apparently, she knew, and she composed a whole song about it.
One overlooked grace from God is that He, in His infinite wisdom, gave us four Gospels, instead of just one or two. For example, if it were up to only Matthew and Mark, we’d have the impression that John the Baptizer appeared out of nowhere and was more than a little weird. After all, it is from their accounts of John that we learn of his odd wardrobe and even odder diet.
A point about John that every one of the Gospels emphasizes is that he was a fulfillment of a promise from the prophets Malachi and Isaiah: “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me” (Malachi 3:1).
A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40:3).
Neither Matthew, whose Gospel begins with a nativity story, nor Mark, whose Gospel does not contain an account of Jesus’ birth, include any details that connect John to the beginning of Jesus’ story. Luke and John, however, do make that connection.
Luke’s Gospel contains the most details about John’s beginning, specifically that, like Jesus, John’s birth was miraculous and also involved a visitation from the angel Gabriel. But it is one particular detail, one often overlooked detail, that is especially remarkable and instructive for our cultural moment. Luke reveals that John the Baptist was the first person—other than Mary, who was told by the angel—to recognize Jesus as the Messiah.
While Mary was still pregnant with Jesus, she went to visit John’s mother Elizabeth, who was also still pregnant.