30. Of What John Learned from Jesus When Mary Visited Elisabeth in the Hill Country.
“The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him.” 4948 The mother of Jesus had formerly, as soon as she conceived, stayed with the mother of John, also at that time with child, and the Former then communicated to the Formed with some exactness His own image, and caused him to be conformed to His glory. And from this outward similarity it came that with those who did not distinguish between the image itself and that which was according to the image, John was thought to be Christ 4949 and Jesus was supposed 4950 to be John risen from the dead. So now Jesus, after the testimonies of John to Him which we have examined, is Himself seen by the Baptist coming to him. It is to be noticed that on the former occasion, when the voice of Marys salutation came to the ears of Elisabeth, the babe John leaped in the womb of his mother, who then received the Holy Spirit, as it were, from the ground. For it came to pass, we read, 4951 “when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she lifted up her voice with a loud cry and said,” etc. On this occasion, similarly, John sees Jesus coming to him and says, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” For with regard to matters of great moment one is first instructed by hearing and afterwards one sees them with ones own eyes. That John was helped to the shape he was to wear by the Lord who, still in the process of formation and in His mothers womb, approached Elisabeth, will be clear to any one who has grasped our proof that John is a voice but that Jesus is the Word, for when Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit at the salutation of Mary there was a great voice in her, as the words themselves bear; for they say, “And she spake out with a loud voice.” Elisabeth, it is plain, did this, “and she spake.” For the voice of Marys salutation coming to the ears of Elisabeth filled John with itself; hence John leaps, and his mother becomes, as it were, the mouth of her son and a prophetess, crying out with a loud voice and saying, “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.” Now we see clearly how it was with Marys hasty journey to the hill country, and her entrance into the house of Zacharias, and the greeting with which she salutes Elisabeth; it was that she might communicate some of the power she derived from Him she had conceived, to John, yet in his mothers womb, and that John too might communicate to his mother some of the prophetic grace which had come to him, that all these things were done. And most rightly was it in the hill country that these transactions took place, since no great thing can be entertained by those who are low and may be thence called valleys. Here, then, after the testimonies of John,—the first, when he cried and spoke about His deity; the second, addressed to the priests and levites who were sent by the Jews from Jerusalem; and the third, in answer to the sharper questions of those from the Pharisees,—Jesus is seen by the witness-bearer coming to him while he is still advancing and growing better. This advance and improvement is symbolically indicated in the phrase, “On the morrow.” For Jesus came in the consequent illumination, as it were, and on the day after what had preceded, not only known as standing in the midst even of those who knew Him not, but now plainly seen advancing to him who had formerly made such declarations about Him. On the first day the testimonies take place, and on the second Jesus comes to John. On the third John, standing with two of his disciples and looking upon Jesus as He walked, said, “Behold the Lamb of God,” thus urging those who were there to follow the Son of God. On the fourth day, too, He was minded to go forth into Galilee, and He who came forth to seek that which was lost finds Philip and says to him, “Follow Me.” And on that day, after the fourth, which is the sixth from the beginning of those we have enumerated, the marriage takes place in Cana of Galilee, which we shall have to consider when we get to the passage. Note this, too, that Mary being the greater comes to Elisabeth, who is the less, and the Son of God comes to the Baptist; which should encourage us to render help without delay to those who are in a lower position, and to cultivate for ourselves a moderate station.
John i. 29.375:4949
Luke iii. 14.375:4950
Matt. xiv. 2.375:4951
Luke 1:41, 42.