Read the passage below, taken from the opening of the Gospel of Luke, 1:1-4. It introduces
The Visitation, Giotto
the story of Elizabeth
the birth of John the Baptist and
Mary’s visit to Zechariah and Elizabeth.
1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things which have been accomplished among us, 2 just as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent The-oph’ilus, 4 that you may know the truth concerning the things of which you have been informed. Luke 1:1-4
Ancient writing tablet and stylus
Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this a description of investigative journalism?
Imagine you are Luke, a journalist. You are going to interview Elizabeth, Zechariah, or Mary.
Prepare a set of questions you would like to ask each of the three main characters in the story
Then imagine you are one of these three, and give the answers they might have given in an interview.
Comparing the Songs
Read the Song of Hannah (2 Samuel 2:1-10) several times, so that its rhythm and imagery become familiar to you.
Now read the Song of Elizabeth and the Magnificat (Luke 1:42-55), noting the similarities and differences.
What significance for Christians can be read into the points of difference?
Focus questions for the gospel passages
1. What are the most interesting things about Elizabeth’s story?
2. What is God’s interaction with the main characters? What does this tell you about the narrator’s image of God? Do you agree with this image?
3. What is happening on either side of the story, in the chapters before and after it? Does this help you understand what is happening?
4. The narrator/editor has chosen to tell some things and leave other things out. What has been left out of the story that you would like to know?
5. Are the characteristics and actions of the people in the story present in people you know? How is the story relevant to modern life, especially your own?
Movies about people helping each other
Stage 1: Make up a list
List some films about people helping each other, as Elizabeth helped Mary. You can choose recent films or classics. If this is a group activity, choose films most people know.
Stage 2: Glance over your list
1. Have you chosen films that are realistic, showing the nitty-gritty of ordinary life, or do you prefer films that are inspiring/uplifting?
2. Do your favorites have both these qualities?
3. What does this say about you and what you need in a story?
Stage 3: Choose your favorite
4. What are the central relationships in this film?
5. Are the relationships shown in a realistic light?
6. Do any of the scenes remind you of your own life or experiences?
7. Or does the film express what you would like to have in your relationships?
Stage 4: Think about your choices
Group activity: discuss these questions, making sure everyone in the group has a chance to talk about their ideas.
Single activity: sit down for a few minutes and focus your mind; make a quick list of your favorite films on this topic; read through the Stage 3 questions, and think about them as you do other tasks in your day.
(In this story) ‘the actions of Elizabeth and Mary are the focus of attention and supply the dominant perspectives that readers are invited to share.
Although readers are certainly not encouraged to forget that their stories are also the stories of John and Jesus, the forerunner and the Messiah, and that it is as the beginning of Jesus’ story that Elizabeth’s and Mary’s stories have their place in the Gospel, it is still the case that, as the mothers of John and Jesus, they are the responsible and acting subjects of the events related in the five central sections of the structure of this passage.
In the case of Elizabeth, Zechariah’s role in fathering the child is no doubt assumed, but it is never mentioned: Elizabeth is the sole agent (other than God) in the narrative of John/s conception and birth. Zechariah is involved only when the neighbors cannot accept, without knowing his mind, such a departure from normal custom as Elizabeth proposes in not giving a family name to her son.‘
Quoted from ‘Gospel Women: Studies of the Named Women in the Gospels’, Richard Bauckham, p54.
‘Elizabeth was barren……’ Luke 1:7
‘When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth exclaimed “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb”.’ 1:42
‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior……..’ 1:46ff
These are three key moments in Elizabeth’s story. Look at each one and think about the way Luke has captured the essence of these events.
What about you?
If someone were writing your story, what would be the key events in your life?
Could you sum them up in a sentence, as Luke did, getting the essence of the event? Try and see if you can.