57 Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she had a son. 58 Then her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her His great mercy, and they rejoiced with her. 59 When they came to circumcise the child on the eighth day, they were going to name him Zechariah, after his father. 60 But his mother responded, “No! He will be called John.” 61 Then they said to her, “None of your relatives has that name.” 62 So they motioned to his father to find out what he wanted him to be called. 63 He asked for a writing tablet and wrote: HIS NAME IS JOHN. And they were all amazed. 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 Fear came on all those who lived around them, and all these things were being talked about throughout the hill country of Judea. 66 All who heard about him took it to heart, saying, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the Lord’s hand was with him. 67 Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied: 68 Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has visited and provided redemption for His people. 69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David, 70 just as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets in ancient times; 71 salvation from our enemies and from the clutches of those who hate us. 72 He has dealt mercifully with our fathers and remembered His holy covenant— 73 the oath that He swore to our father Abraham. He has given us the privilege, 74 since we have been rescued from our enemies’ clutches, to serve Him without fear 75 in holiness and righteousness in His presence all our days. 76 And child, you will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare His ways, 77 to give His people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins. 78 Because of our God’s merciful compassion, the Dawn from on high will visit us 79 to shine on those who live in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. 80 The child grew up and became spiritually strong, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel. — Luke 1:57-80
The Birth of John the Baptist
by Jason Dukes
What’s in a name? Apparently to God, names bring identity, security and purpose.
Take Simon for example. You know, the disciple Jesus renamed Cephas (“rock” in Aramaic) or Peter (“rock” in Greek). By God’s Spirit, Peter clarified the identity of God when he said Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God (Matthew 16). Jesus responded that His church would be built upon the “rock” of Simon’s declaration of faith regarding the identity and purpose of Jesus.
Or take the name of the Son of God: Immanuel. God always wanted us to do more than live FOR Him, so He sent His Son, “God with us,” to clarify His original intention that we should live WITH Him.
Immanuel was to be born to a very surprised, very humbled, very grateful young virgin, and this news was joined by some surprising news about her close relative as well. Elizabeth had been barren. God’s ways are higher than ours, but how intentional of Him to send life into a barren womb, a baby who would become a preparatory messenger for a dry and weary people. Mary visited Elizabeth to share the bewildering news of her coming virgin birth to a son, and they celebrated their pregnancies together.
Zechariah was skeptical, and consequentially mute until after Elizabeth had given birth.
When they came to circumcise the child on the eighth day, they were going to name him Zechariah, after his father. But his mother responded, “No! He will be called John.” Then they said to her, “None of your relatives has that name.” So they motioned to his father to find out what he wanted him to be called. He asked for a writing tablet and wrote: HIS NAME IS JOHN. And they were all amazed (Luke 1:59-63).
The child’s name was almost “Zechariah,” meaning “YHWH has remembered,” which He most certainly had. But that was not to be the boy’s name. Instead, it would be “John,” which means “The Lord has been gracious and shown favor.” God had done more than remembered. John was sent to prepare the people for a Messiah whose purpose was not to remember a frustrated people longing for freedom from Rome’s oppression, but rather was to graciously deliver a weary people needing undeserved favor from sin’s condemnation.
Zechariah prophesied of John: Because of our God’s merciful compassion, the Dawn from on high will visit us to shine on those who live in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace (Luke 1:78-79).
John’s purpose was to announce an incomparable shalom far greater than the peace and rest that toppling the Roman rule might bring. He prepared them for an age in which undeserved forgiveness and unmerited favor was available for those who believed in the gracious goodness and love of the Father.
May we learn from the meaning of John’s name. Baby Jesus did not come because we were a people deserving a comfortable, more enjoyable life. Jesus left His deserved throne to put on human skin in order to give humanity undeserved, abundant life. He brought favor to those who had lost favor, who needed to be reminded of God’s name, and who now have a God-given identity, a Christ-secured security, and a Spirit-assured purpose.
- HIS NAME IS JOHN. Do you know your God-given name? Mine is “Forever Loved, Graciously Forgiven, Undeservedly God’s Child, IN CHRIST.” Yours is, too. May you be reminded to believe it this Christmas.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible® and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.