A Miracle, A Name, A Prophecy: John the Baptist’s Birth
The book of Luke opens with two angelic birth announcements. One is Jesus. The other is John. John was born to a priestly family. All of his parents’ friends and family were expecting that Zechariah and Elizabeth, an older childless couple, would name their son Zechariah to carry on the namesake of his father. Zechariah means, “Yahweh remembers.” This would have been a fitting name for John, as God was faithful to the parents of the child in remembering Elizabeth and removing the shame of being childless—which in this culture, many felt children were a sign of God’s blessing. However, when the child was brought for the customary circumcision ceremony, the friends and family volunteered “Zechariah” as the name. Elizabeth interrupted. “No, he shall be called John.”
This was an odd moment. The friends and family wanted to make sure Zechariah was brought up to speed on what the boy was to be called. God made him mute by the angel Gabriel for his lack of faith in God’s ability to give him a child. He wanted a sign. So God pushed the mute button on Zechariah’s vocal chords as that sign.
Zechariah got the message. This child would be different. “His name is John,” he scrawled on a writing tablet. And with that, God un-muted him.
I love the response of the crowd. They looked at Zechariah in wide eyed amazement and at the miracle they just witnessed. Here simply the agreement of parents against conventional wisdom unlocked the lips and ears of Zechariah. Clearly this kid was something special.
John means, “Yahweh is gracious.” As Zechariah would prophesy, John would be the one who would announce that the savior of the world. He would introduce the one who would forgive the sins of all the people. Now this prophecy was huge. God had spoken of removing sins before, but it always came at the price of some hapless animal. Now here, John would be ushering in the savior who would do something a little more dramatic. He would take away sins. It wouldn’t be just mercy—meaning once the lamb or goat’s blood was shed, their lives looked the same, but rather forgiveness in that Jesus would take the sins of the world, and then his resurrection power would be given to all who believe through the Holy Spirit. That is grace. That is getting what we don’t deserve. And that should cause us to pause in wonder at Christ this Christmas.
Jesus called John the Baptist the greatest human that ever lived and this Sunday we will investigate the events surrounding the birth of John, the prophesy over his life and how some within his inner circle of failed to wrap their head around his role as a prophet. In fact, there were times when even he questioned his calling in trying to live up to his father’s prophecy. Come join us as we seek to understand God’s will especially when others just don’t understand.