The birth of John the Baptist
57When Elizabeth's son was born,58her neighbours and relatives heard how kind the Lord had been to her, and they too were glad.
59Eight days later they did for the child what the Law of Moses commands. They were going to name him Zechariah, after his father.60But Elizabeth said, “No! His name is John.”
61The people argued, “No one in your family has ever been named John.”62So they motioned to Zechariah to find out what he wanted to name his son.
63Zechariah asked for a writing tablet. Then he wrote, “His name is John.” Everyone was amazed.64Straight away Zechariah started speaking and praising God.
65All the neighbours were frightened because of what had happened, and everywhere in the hill country people kept talking about these things.66Everyone who heard about this wondered what this child would grow up to be. They knew that the Lord was with him.
The anticipation grows. Elizabeth had become pregnant, as foretold in v.13; now she finds out that the baby is indeed a boy. The angel had told Zechariah that the boy’s name was to be John (“Yahweh has shown favour”), and in spite of the objections of the neighbours and relatives, that is the name which his parents gave him. And there is joy. There is always joy at the birth of a baby, but there is more going on here. “Joy” is a favourite word of Luke. This child was living proof that “the Lord has shown favour” to a childless woman who thought her childbearing days were over. More than that, the angel had prophesied that the child would grow up to be great in God’s eyes (vv.14-15). God would show favour not just to Elizabeth.
Zechariah’s speech was restored when he faithfully obeyed the angel in the naming of the child. To joy was added awe and the word was spread, not just to Elizabeth’s neighbours and friends, as in v 58, but “throughout the hill country of Judea.” Nobody knew what lay ahead, just that God was at work in their midst. Something important was about to happen.
Zechariah’s silence had been like the silence of God for the past four hundred years. There had been no word from God since Malachi. Now he is speaking again. This is a pivotal time; time to reflect on the whole message of the Old Testament and time to be alert to what God is doing now.
Lord, as I embark on this project of reading your whole word in the Bible, make me alert. Show me how you had revealed yourself to the Jews of the Old Testament, always pointing ahead to what you would do in Jesus. Help me to look forward too, to the things which are still in the future, and to live a life that will make me ready for what you will do next.