Elizabeth Healed of Barrenness and Giving Birth to John the Baptist

Learn more Elizabeth, who was healed of barrenness. She was John the Baptist's mom, so it's clear she had a complete healing!

By Marjorie Foerster Eddington

Categories: Gratitude, Health, Jesus' Birth, Women in the Bible

In Jesus' time (and throughout history and still in some places today) having children, especially a son, gave value to women. It was disappointing and even horrible if a wife couldn't bear children. And Elizabeth, Mary's cousin, was in this position. She was barren. This must have caused her and her husband great anguish.

Elizabeth was a descendant of Aaron (Moses' brother, the first priest of the Israelites) and her husband Zechariah was a priest. The gospel of Luke tells us that both Zechariah and Elizabeth "were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord" (Luke 1:6 NRSV). Nothing is said about them complaining or getting upset with each other or God, even though "both were getting on in years" (1:7). What a wonderful way to deal with an incredibly difficult challenge -- keep on serving God!

One day, when Zechariah's group of priests was on duty at the Temple, he was chosen to go into the sanctuary where only priests could go. It was a tremendous honor, as the ones selected were thought to be chosen by God. While he was in there, the angel Gabriel appeared to him and "terrified" him. But the angel calmed Zechariah, "Do not be afraid" (1:12, 13) and then gave him some amazing news: Elizabeth would bear him a son who would be "great in the sight of the Lord." He would not drink or cut his hair; he would be "filled with the Holy Spirit" (1:15); he would "turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God" (1:16).

This news was just too miraculous for Zechariah to believe. So Gabriel told him that because he didn't believe, he would no longer be able to talk. When he came out of the sanctuary, Zechariah had to sign to the rest of the priests. And sure enough, Elizabeth did indeed conceive.

Elizabeth was so overjoyed that she spent five months by herself cherishing the babe in her womb (1:24). She was overcome with gratitude: "This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people" (1:25). No longer would she be the subject of the ladies' gossip circles or feel the sting of people's pitying glances.

Her dedication to God rewarded her in a way she could never have outlined or planned. Not only had she been healed of barrenness; she was also to be the mother of a great prophet, one who would prepare the way for the Messiah.

Those five months alone must have brought her closer to God. When her cousin Mary came to stay with her for her last trimester, Elizabeth was "filled with the Holy Spirit" and recognized the significance of the babe Mary was carrying in her womb: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb" (1:41, 42). Elizabeth felt humbled. "Why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?" she asked (1:43).

The healing for Elizabeth and Zechariah was complete after she gave birth and declared the child's name to be John. No one would believe her (since she was a woman), so they asked her husband. When Zechariah wrote down that his son's name was John, his voice came back to him and he prophesied (1:64). Filled with the Holy Spirit, he affirmed:

And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways…. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn form on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. (1:76, 78-79)

What a beautiful and powerful prophecy! John the Baptist, coming "with the spirit and power of Elijah" (1:17), was part of the fulfillment of prophecy, for Elijah was to come back before the Messiah.

What an amazing healing! Elizabeth and Zechariah's lives were no longer barren. All the time, thought, energy, and prayer they had dedicated to worshiping God blessed them -- opened up their hearts, enabled them to feel the power of the Holy Spirit, and included them in the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecy and promise. They, too, felt the power of the Christ and were grateful.

How blessed we all are for their devotion to God!