Advent of John the Baptist
Read Luke 1:57-80 The matter of the names of children is very sensitive. In the culture of the Israelites, the name of a child was very significant. God sometimes changed the name of a person, such as changing the name of Abram to Abraham, of Sarai to Sarah, and of Jacob to Israel. At other times, God gave the name of the child before birth. Such is the case with both John and Jesus. Luke 1:57-80 has to do with a family argument over the name that was to be given the child of Zacharias and Elizabeth. When Gabriel informed Zacharias that he and his wife would have a child in their old age, the first thing he did was to instruct this priest as to what the child’s name would be, “your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John” (Luke 1:13).
It is not until the time of John’s circumcision, that this divinely given instruction causes any difficulty. Suddenly, the naming of John ends up in what appears to be a rather emotional issue, with Elizabeth standing her ground against an unnamed group of observer-participants, who are insisting that the boy be named after his father.
Somewhere in the ceremony, when the name of Zacharias was being given, Elizabeth interrupted, insisting that the child’s name was to be John (Luke 1:60). Since this was not the name of the father, nor was it the name of a relative, there was a strong reaction to Elizabeth’s demands. When Zacharias is made aware of the dispute and when he is asked, as to what he wanted John called, Zacharias writes on a tablet, “His name is John” (Luke 1:63).
Naming of John the Baptist
Why was the naming of the child so important, and so emotional? The naming of the son after his father implied that this child would “walk in the steps of his father,” that he would carry on the father’s name, and thus his work as well. Had John been named Zacharias, he would have been expected to grow up as a priest, just like his father. He would thus have gone about with his father as he carried out his priestly duties. To be named by any other name would have implied just the opposite.
John would not follow in his father’s steps. He would not learn to do what his father did. He would not be a priest. This, of course, was precisely the case, and thus the reason for the name John. The meaning of the name “John” is not what is important; it is the implied message by having any name other than Zacharias that is such an emotional issue. If any of those gathered at the circumcision ceremony were relatives, Elizabeth’s insistence that the boy be named John was to renounce the family, its work, and its perpetuation through the next generation.
When Zacharias wrote the words, “His name is John,” on that tablet, he was given the power of speech. At that moment, his tongue was loosed and he began to praise God. The record of the praise of Zacharias is delayed a few verses, so that Luke can record the impact on those who watched, on those who heard, and those who witnessed the dispute over the naming of the child.
In Luke 1:67-79 Zacharias’ praise is directed toward Messiah. Zacharias’ praise highlights the political blessings that the nation Israel will experience. In verses 76-79, Zacharias’ praise highlights the impact of John’s ministry. As Gabriel informed Zacharias, John will be the forerunner of Messiah, whose task will be to prepare men and women for His coming, by calling them to repent.
In both the praises of Mary and of Zacharias, there seems to be more emphasis on the results of the second coming of Christ, than His first.
In Luke 1:80, he gives us his reason for including the account of John’s childhood. In addition, Luke informs us as to his reason for including the dispute over the naming of John.
What can we learn from this account of the conception and birth of John, first, God’s purpose for John was announced, even before his conception, so that his parents might raise him in the light of those purposes, thus helping to prepare him for this ministry. Second, John was filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth, so that his spiritual growth would be enhanced, during his childhood, in preparation for his ministry. Finally, John was prepared for his ministry by being separated from his family, culture, and religious system.
Life begins in the womb
In the Old Testament, the accounts of men like Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joseph, and David, reveal that God was working in their early lives to prepare them for later ministry. There are also incidents recorded in the Old Testament that indicate that God’s preparation for the ministry of those He calls begins in the womb. Even in the New Testament, Paul spoke of his calling before his birth. He also reminded Timothy of the preparation which God had worked in his life through his mother and grandmother.
Consider this; in this supposed Christian nation, since the legalizing of abortion, of the billion or more babies that have been murdered in the mother’s womb, we will never know in this life how many of those little ones the Lord would have called to go into all the nations, including this nation to proclaim the gospel message. Someone might say if it was God’s will that one of these murdered babies were destined to work in the harvest field of the Lord, He would have prevented the abortion. Such a claim does not take in consideration God’s intervention into human matters is not a normal procedure by God. When God created man He instilled in man the ability to make decisions and God will never overturn the decisions men and women make unless they interfere with the ultimate goal of God, the redemption of mankind.