24 June 2013

Luke 1:57-66, 80

“What then will this child become?” (v. 66)


The first two chapters of Luke's Gospel interweave the narrative of the prophecies and birth of both John and his cousin Jesus. They begin to pose a question: what then will these two children become?

Today's passage centres on the baby John's naming celebration; it builds upon the story of his conception. His parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth, were devout members of the Jewish faith; his father was a priest. John's birth was celebrated as a sign of God's blessing as previously the couple had no children.

Zechariah had to write his confirmation of John's name because he had been unable to speak since he questioned the angel's prophecy of the birth (verse 63). God is introducing the good news of God's own purposes for all people by influencing the lives of this family and their community.

The naming of children is a time of happiness and pride. Individual names bestow a sense of value; they provide a source of identity and can indicate a heritage to which the person belongs. Names can also reveal a family's expectations of what a child will go on to be.

John's naming was a reason for rejoicing, but it also confounded the expectations of those present who assumed he would automatically take his father's name, causing uncertainty and anxiety. It led them to question who it was the boy would become. He was soon the subject of speculation and comment and those present resolved to see if their expectations were confirmed by later events; Luke notes that "the hand of the Lord was with him" (v. 66).

John's name means 'God is gracious' or 'God has shown his favour'. We, perhaps, see his future message for all people to repent and believe in the forgiveness of sin (Luke 3:3-14) foreshadowed in the experience of Zechariah. It is the realisation of the truth of the angel's prophecy that released Zechariah to speak again and he immediately proceeds to praise God (Luke 1:68-79). He now understood what Elizabeth had instinctively accepted. The truth of God's word has set him free.

To Ponder

  • When others hear your name, what are the individual God-given attributes and gifts that they identify with you? And those things that make you the person that you are?
  • If you don't know the answer to the question above, then consider asking this question of someone who knows you well.
  • How can the individual talents with which you are blessed be best put to use on behalf of your church or by serving in your community?

Bible notes author

Kevin Duffy

Kevin had a background in social work and the NHS; prior to joining the Connexional Team he consulted and advised on public sector projects across government. As a local preacher, he led worship across Bristol & South Gloucestershire and beyond.