“They were both righteous before God and blameless, following all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.” (Luke 1:6)
Luke’s Gospel begins with the story of a pious couple, Zacharias and Elizabeth.
Zacharias is a priest working in the Temple. He is the first person in history to hear any inkling of the good news—direct from the mouth of the angel Gabriel.
He is performing rituals and burning incense alone in the sanctuary of the Temple when Gabriel appears.
Later, his wife Elizabeth receives the Holy Spirit from Jesus when Jesus is still in his mother’s womb.
They are the first to be transformed by Jesus’s coming into the world.
What prepares them for this transformation? It is the blameless life they lead—their righteousness and justice and willingness to do God’s will.
They take their religious obligations seriously.
They make that essential leap from being religious to having good hearts which shows they understand the inner meaning of religion. They are exemplars of their Jewish faith.
Their son John the Baptist, also deeply pious, would go on to live a very different and much less conventional life. He would finally offend the powers that be and pay a heavy price.
John would prepare the way for Jesus who likewise would live a life outside the religious mainstream, ultimately suffering a fate even worse than John’s.
On one hand, there are the radicals who shake things up like Jesus and John, and on the other, there are the ordinary faithful like John’s parents.
Their ordinary goodness made Elizabeth and Zacharias extraordinary. Extraordinary things happened through them, and the world is better forever because of them.
They were the ones God came to first when he decided to intervene in history in a new way.
And so it’s appropriate that, for Luke, Elizabeth and Zacharias’s simple piety is the beginning of the story of Jesus.
May we be more like them.