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What Can John the Baptist's Mother Teach Us?

Contributing Writer
What Can John the Baptist's Mother Teach Us?

As a pastor and leader, when people compliment me, I often say, “I wasn’t raised in a vacuum.” In other words, if there is something in my leadership or teaching that you appreciate, then there are other giants of the faith I can point to. My mother, my Grandma, my pastor as a teen, my Sunday School teacher, my mentor through my twenties, and several others, men and women of faith, passed their faith on to me in ways I’m still realizing a couple decades later.

Jesus said the following about John the Baptist in Matthew 11:11, “Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

Up until Christ and the New Covenant, Jesus testifies John the Baptist was the greatest person that ever lived, since every one of them were born of women. This mind-blowing statement means John the Baptist was greater than Abraham, Moses, King David, Isaiah, and all the heroes of the Old Testament. John is such an important figure in the Gospels that all four of them include details about his ministry leading up to the revelation of Jesus.

John the Baptist didn’t grow up in a vacuum, either. The Gospel of Luke gives us more details about John the Baptist’s mother and father. A man and woman of great faith, they were central to the Gospel story—although John the Baptist’s mother gets mentioned with more detail than his father.

What Was the Name of John the Baptist’s Mother?

The name of John the Baptist’s mother was Elizabeth. Elizabeth means “God’s promise” or “God is my oath.”

According to the Gospel of Luke in the New Testament, Elizabeth and Zechariah were both righteous before God, but they were childless and too old to have a baby anymore. This might have seemed ironic in light of Elizabeth’s name. God promised a blessing in the Old Testament for those that obeyed him, a blessing of life which included having children.

For someone named “God’s Promise,” it appeared God didn’t fulfill his word. Yet, the story wasn’t over, and despite their advanced age, God can do the impossible.

Zechariah was a Levite and a priest in the temple. One day, while he did his turn of service in the temple, an angel of the Lord appeared to him and announced his wife Elizabeth would conceive a son, and they should call him by the name John. Furthermore, the angel revealed John would be filled with the Holy Spirit from birth and would play a crucial role in preparing the way for the coming Messiah.

Elizabeth’s pregnancy was seen as miraculous since she had been barren for so long and was far past childbearing age. While this miracle was big news, and proved God fulfills his promises, Elizabeth kept the pregnancy quiet.

Meanwhile, Gabriel had visited Mary with the announcement of the Son of God, Jesus. Part of the angel’s instruction was to go and see Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin and another woman with a miraculous pregnancy. When Mary visits Elizabeth, the unborn baby, the future John the Baptist, joyfully leaped within her womb in response to the presence of the unborn Messiah. Mary stayed with Elizabeth until John the Baptist was born.

After John’s birth, Zechariah confirmed his name as John, and at that moment, Zechariah’s speech, which the angel had taken away because of the priest’s disbelief, was restored. John grew up to live in the wilderness and became a prophet calling people to repentance and baptized people as a sign of washing from sin and returning to God, hence the name John the Baptist. John also foretold the coming of the Messiah.

John possessed two godly and faithful parents, and with Jesus as his cousin and Mary and Joseph as relatives, John was surrounded by people who helped to teach him what it meant to follow God and speak prophetically. Elizabeth’s faithfulness and the miraculous nature of John’s birth are powerful examples of God’s intervention and purpose in human history.

Why Does Luke Underline that John the Baptist’s Mother Lived a Good Life?

For many of us, we oftentimes feel like we’ve been faithful and yet haven’t seen the fulfillment of God’s promises. This tension is something most disciples can relate to, as God takes us on a journey of trust and trial to develop our character.

The Old and New Testaments are both full of examples of people who waited and struggled before they saw the fulfillment of prophecy and promise. They weren’t perfect people and perhaps made mistakes along the way, but their faithfulness saw them through many hard times.

Elizabeth is such a character. Luke points out that her barrenness wasn’t due to a curse because of disobedience. On the contrary, Elizabeth and Zechariah were righteous. Elizabeth’s portrayal as someone that lived a good life serves to highlight the divine favor and significance of John’s birth and mission.

The Gospel of Luke mentions that Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah were “righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord” (Luke 1:6).

By emphasizing Elizabeth’s righteousness, Luke contrasts her experience with the norms of her day. In ancient Jewish society, infertility was seen as a sign of divine favor or punishment. Her barrenness would have likely subjugated her to judgment and questions regarding her obedience, especially as the wife of a respected priest. People would have gossiped, wondering what she might have done or what was wrong with her.

As a woman of her time, Elizabeth would have also seen part of her value as someone to provide children for her husband, and she likely felt a great deal of shame and questions about her worth.

However, Luke presents her as blameless, debunking the notion that her infertility resulted from personal sin.

Finally, Luke highlights Elizabeth’s righteous life to establish the legitimacy of John’s prophetic role in the Gospel. John was not only a prophet who announced the coming Messiah; he also gave personal testimony that Jesus was the Son of God. Reinforcing Elizabeth’s faithfulness legitimizes John and, therefore, also Jesus.

How Did John the Baptist’s Mother React When Mary Visited Her?

Both women needed the community of the miraculous to encourage them in their situations.

God often does this. He leads us to others to support one another in the path and journey we are on, to hear the stories of miracles we need to help us keep pressing forward and build our faith.

When Mary, the mother of Jesus, visited John the Baptist’s mother, Elizabeth, there was a profound and joyful response between the two of them. This encounter recorded in the Gospel of Luke is often called the Visitation.

According to Luke 1:41-44, as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby in her womb, John, leaped for joy. This reaction signifies the spiritual connection between the unborn John the Baptist and the unborn Jesus.

Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, exclaimed loudly, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy” (Luke 1:42-44).

John the Baptist’s mother’s words here express her sense of awe and gratitude that Mary and the Savior within her womb would come to visit her. Elizabeth, who at least would have struggled with feelings of inadequacy and curse, now felt incredibly blessed that she had been included in the ultimate redemption story of God, the redemption of Israel, and the whole world.

Elizabeth would have had the words of Zechariah in her mind, his prophecy recounting the end of Malachi and how John would be the forerunner of the long-awaited Messiah. To literally see it come to pass through her cousin was a special moment indeed.

Mary also responds in joy. After hearing the word of God through the angel, Mary simply said, “Let it be unto me according to your word.”

But after this meeting, in community with her cousin Elizabeth, seeing more miracle confirming her own, Mary responds with her own prophetic song of joy, commonly called the Magnificat.

May we also have these types of interactions with other brothers and sisters that confirm God’s amazing grace and work in our lives, encouraging one another through worship and spiritual discussions and sharing our miracle stories.

What Can We Learn from John the Baptist’s Mother?

From the story of John the Baptist’s mother, Elizabeth, we can learn several valuable lessons to inspire and guide us today. Here are four key points from Elizabeth’s character and experience we can apply to our lives.

1. Faithfulness and Righteousness. Elizabeth’s life serves as a reminder of the importance of living a life of integrity and devotion to God, resulting in righteousness and a good reputation. This includes remaining faithful when it appears God has forgotten us in some way or aspect. Elizabeth held on to the goodness of God, trusting him when others would have given up on him or thought he had given up on her.

2. Trusting in God’s Timing. My mentor, Larry Trammell, used to say, “God’s never late, but he’s rarely early.” He may not have been the one who originated that phrase, but he’s who I learned it from. The Scripture is full of people who had to wait longer than they thought necessary. But if they remained faithful, God is just and fulfills his promises, even when it seems impossible to us, like Elizabeth, who was past her childbearing years.

3. Humility and Gratitude. Elizabeth would have been much older than the young Mary, but when she recognized the work of God within Mary, she worshipped and affirmed her cousin. Elizabeth’s response was marked by humility, gratitude, and praise. She freely acknowledged the blessing and favor of God upon Mary, even more than her own story. Elizabeth expressed her gratitude for being such a major part in God’s great redemption story.

4. Finding Joy in God’s Larger Story. God doesn’t simply bless us for ourselves. He does care about us individually and seeks to give us the desires of our hearts. But God never does only one thing. We are promised that he gives us what we ask for in his name (John 14:13-14), part of his identity as Savior and Messiah. God is changing and saving the world. His blessings to us are meant to give us personal joy and bless others within the Gospel story across the world.

Through the life of John the Baptist’s mother, Elizabeth, we can learn to stay faithful amid hard times, trusting God’s timing and promises with worship, praise, and faithfulness. This grows our character and gives us the greatest of joys when we see God show up in our lives and the lives of others.


Britt MooneyBritt Mooney lives and tells great stories. As an author of fiction and non -iction, he is passionate about teaching ministries and nonprofits the power of storytelling to inspire and spread truth. Mooney has a podcast called Kingdom Over Coffee and is a published author of We Were Reborn for This: The Jesus Model for Living Heaven on Earth as well as Say Yes: How God-Sized Dreams Take Flight.