Birth of John the Baptist

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2_Birth of John the Baptist1Scripture Reference: Luke 1:5-80

Suggested Emphasis: God can make things happen that are impossible to man.

Memory Verse: “Nothing is impossible for God!” Luke 1:37 CEV

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Story Overview:

A priest and his wife were well beyond the years when it was possible to give birth to a child. The angel, Gabriel, gave Zechariah the incredible news that his wife, Elizabeth, would give birth to a son who would become a great preacher. They were to name the baby John. Elizabeth was received a visit from her young cousin, Mary, and these two praised God in their shared joy.  Soon after Mary left, Elizabeth gave birth to John.

Background Study:

Zechariah and his wife, Elisabeth, were Jews who patiently waited for God to rescue and restore his people. Zechariah was a priest, and both he and his wife were from the priestly line of Aaron (Exodus 28:1, 431 Chronicles 24:19). Though married for many years, this couple had never had a child. Not only was this personally disappointing for Zechariah and Elisabeth others saw it as shameful. Jewish society at that time looked down on people who could not have children. They unfairly assumed God was not pleased with them and was consequently withholding the blessing of children.

The priestly groups took turns in temple duties. Zechariah’s group was serving at this time. Within the group, the priests chose lots (similar, in effect, to drawing straws or rolling dice) to decide who was to perform specific temple duties. In today’s story, Zechariah’s responsibility was to burn incense inside the temple. While the priest burned incense, he was to pray. The people worshipping outside in the temple court were to pray also. 

Zechariah was supposed to be alone in the temple, but as he prayed, he was suddenly aware of an angel standing near him at the right of the altar. Sensing Zechariah’s fright, the angel told him not to fear. God had heard Zechariah’s prayer for the salvation of Israel.  

Zechariah’s and Elisabeth’s personal prayers were to be answered as well. His wife would give birth to a son filled with the Holy Spirit. They were to name him John (which means “the Lord is gracious”). 

Poor Zechariah. It was all too wonderful to believe, and he questioned the angel. (Luke 1:18-20). For this reason, Zechariah was struck dumb. He left the temple and returned to Elizabeth. She became pregnant.

Mary’s Visit:

(Luke 1:26-56) During Elisabeth’s pregnancy, her young cousin, Mary, from Nazareth, visited her. When Mary first greeted Elisabeth, the baby inside of Elisabeth’s womb “jumped.” Elisabeth’s unborn child recognised that something special was happening within Mary too. 

It turns out that Zechariah was not the only one who had received a visit from an angel. The angel, Gabriel, had also visited Mary to tell her that she was pregnant with a baby that would be called Jesus. 

Two seemingly impossible pregnancies had occurred. One was the pregnancy of an older woman past the age of childbearing. The other was the pregnancy of a virgin. As the angel had assured Mary, “nothing is impossible with God.”

Now, at Elizabeth’s house, despite one woman being elderly and the other very young, these two women shared a special bond. During Mary’s visit and before she returned to Nazareth, these two women shared the fantastic things that had been happening to them and worshipped God. In these verses, we read “Mary’s song”.

Mary left to return to Nazareth when Elizabeth was nearing her due date.

John is Born

Elizabeth gave birth to a son. The neighbours had been puzzled by Zechariah’s inability to speak. They were even more puzzled when Elizabeth wanted to name the child John instead of after his father or a relative. Even though Zechariah could still not speak, he motioned to others for something to write on. He was handed a wooden tablet and wrote, “His name is John.”

It was at this point that Zechariah was again able to speak. He immediately began to praise God and prophesy. First, he praised God for visiting and redeeming his people. Zechariah said the Messiah would soon come to bring salvation to His people. The Messiah would fulfil all the prophecies and covenants. 

Zechariah’s son, John, was to be the one who would prepare the way for this Messiah. 

Later, we will learn that Jesus was the Messiah.

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Way to Introduce the Story:

When the students are assembled in the story area, begin moving your lips and gesturing as if telling the story, but do not speak aloud. Act frustrated that they do not seem to understand what you are saying. Continue for another minute. “Oh, I guess you were having trouble understanding me, weren’t you? What was the problem? That’s right. I was talking, but no sound was coming out.

Listen to our Bible story to discover who else could not talk.
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The Story:

Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth were two old people—like grandparents—except that Zechariah and Elizabeth were not grandparents. They weren’t even parents. They had no children, and that made them sad. But all their lives they had followed God’s commands, and that had made their lives happy.

Zechariah was a priest who helped in God’s temple. One day a very special thing happened to him. He was chosen to be the one priest to go inside the temple and burn incense while the people stood outside and prayed. Zechariah must have felt especially happy as he entered the temple.

Suddenly an angel appeared in front of him! Zechariah was terrified. The angel comforted him, “don’t be afraid, Zechariah. God has heard your prayer. Your wife Elizabeth will have a son. You will name him John. He will help people follow God’s chosen leader.

That seems impossible doesn’t it? Can old people have babies? Only God could make that happen! Zechariah should have believed the angel and rejoiced. But he didn’t. “How can this happen?” he asked. “My wife and I are old.”

“I am the angel Gabriel. God sent me to deliver this good news to you. But now, since you did not believe my news, you will not be able to talk until my words come true.

Outside the temple the crowd was getting impatient. They wondered why Zechariah was taking so long inside the temple. But when he did come out, he couldn’t tell them. The angel’s words had come true: Zechariah couldn’t talk.

And more of the angel’s words came true. Zechariah and Elizabeth soon discovered that they were going to have a baby. The neighbours and relatives rejoiced along with the parents. And when the baby was born, it was a boy, just as the angel had said.

When the baby was eight days old, many friends and relatives of Zechariah and Elizabeth came for a party to give the baby his name. As people gathered for the party, they talked about how the baby would be named Zechariah after his father. But Elizabeth heard them and said, “No, his name will be John!”

The guests were surprised. “But none of your relatives have that name.”

They turned to Zechariah and gestured for him to show what he wanted the baby to be named—he still could not talk. He asked for a writing tablet and on it wrote, “His name is John.”

All of the sudden Zechariah realized that he could talk! He began praising God for the wonderful way He had kept His promises. He explained to the people that John indeed was a special baby, and God had a special plan for him: John would prepare people to follow Jesus (who would soon be born.)

Zechariah and Elizabeth were excited to have a son after all these years. But they were even happier that God had chosen them as the parents of a boy who would grow up and help others follow God’s own Son.

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Ways to Tell the Story:

This story can be told using a variety of methods.  Always remain true to the facts found in the Bible but help children connect to its meaning by using drama, visual aids, voice inflection, student interaction and/or emotion.
Click here for visual aids and story-telling methods.

Click here to download the slideshow or click here to download the pictures to print.
Be selective.  Each teacher is unique so only use the illustrations that best relate to the way YOU are telling the story in THIS lesson. Too many illustrations can be confusing so eliminate any that cover other stories or details you do not wish to emphasise in this lesson.

Review Questions:

  1. Who were the parents of John the Baptist? Zechariah and Elizabeth.
  2. Who told Zechariah that Elizabeth was going to have a baby? The angel Gabriel
  3. What was so unusual about Zechariah and Elizabeth having a baby? They were old.
  4. Quote Luke 1:37. “For nothing is impossible with God.” (NIV)

Song Suggestions:

Learning Activities and Crafts:

(How to choose the best learning activities for my teaching situation)
   Activities:

  • To help reinforce the fact that God’s power made it possible for an elderly couple to have a baby, show a magic trick. After fooling the class, then explain how the trick worked. Talk about the difference between magic tricks and God’s power (magic tricks are just “tricks” but God’s power is real.)
  • Memorize Luke 1:37. A fun way to do this is to write words like “fast, slow, baby talk, bass voice, opera singer, etc on small cards. Children can draw cards and then say the memory verse according to the card they choose. Example: Child draws a card with “opera singer” on it so they sing the verse as an opera singer would.  Another child might draw a card that says “whisper the verse”.  After hearing and repeating the verse a number of times all the children will learn it.
  • Obtain birth announcements and have students fill them out for John the Baptist.
  • Hide baby items around the room and have students find them.
  • Younger children can practice writing “His name is John” (verse 63).
  • If you plan on teaching about The Birth of Jesus in the next few weeks then ask students to bring baby photos so that these can be used as an introduction to that story.

Check the Teaching Ideas page on this website for ideas that are adaptable to any lesson.

Link to full list of printablesClick here for  the “Birth of John the Baptist” printables to print on A4 size paper
Click here for the “Birth of John the Baptist” printables to print on Letter size paper (USA)

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