The Gospel Reading (Lk 1:39-45)
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,Lk 1:41a
the infant leaped in her womb
Then David came dancing before the LORD with abandon…jumping and dancing before the LORD2 SM 6:14, 16
Comparing Mary’s encounter with Elizabeth to David’s retrieving the Ark of the Covenant is not uncommon in the literature. And, certainly, comparing little John, who became known as “the Baptist,” to David in their leaps before the Lord is invariably mentioned in those same expositions. But, something I have not come across is linking John and David in their respective roles.
Both are precursors to the Messiah. Both, in a sense, prepare the way of the Lord. John more immediately, to be sure, while David 1,000 years before. David was a man after God’s own heart, Scripture tells us (see 1 Sam 13:14). Jesus, in different words says essentially the same thing about His cousin, but in even loftier terms: “Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist” (Mt 11:11a).
In David, a Christ (i.e., an Anointed One) in his own right, we see many types of his Lord (see here and here). John, the New Elijah (see here), like his prophetic forebear, attempts to ready God’s Chosen People for the advent of the Messiah. Yes, Elijah comes a couple of centuries after David, but both hold forth the promise of the Lord God intervening in history in an unexpected, but glorious way.
David had reason to dance in front of the returning ark touched by the finger of Yahweh. John had even more reason to dance in front of the new ark containing God Himself. Both anticipate the Epiphany. David fell into a different category, as Jesus explained:
Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.Mt 13:17
But John, the last Old Testament prophet, was blessed to see and hear the longed-for Messiah in time and space. And both he and David, who pointed toward the Christ, now enjoy His presence personally in eternity.
More on Today’s Readings
The Fathers on the Sunday Gospels edited by Stephen Mark Holmes
I worked through these brief sermons, arranged to follow the current lectionary, for the last year. Pick it up if you can — it will enhance your weekly reflection on the Sunday readings. See my brief Goodreads review here.