24 June 2017

Luke 1:57-66, 80

“He asked for a writing-tablet and wrote, ‘His name is John.’ And all of them were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God.” (vv. 63-64)

Psalm: Psalm 80:1-7


Elizabeth was a relative of Mary, the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:36). She was married to Zechariah, a priest serving the temple in Jerusalem, and she was a descendant of Aaron, sometimes called the first priest, brother to Moses. Service to God was in this couple's bloodline. The son Elizabeth gave birth to was none other than John the Baptist who prepared the way for Jesus. Elizabeth became a mother late in life and it proved to her neighbours and relatives that "nothing will be impossible with God" (Luke 1:37). In those days, being lifted from the 'shame' of barrenness was interpreted as a sign of God's mercy. Her husband, on first being informed by an angel about all this (Luke 1:19-20), showed such disbelief that he was struck dumb as punishment. And when it was time for the baby's circumcision and naming, as Hebrew tradition required, he still was.

More than 30 people in the Bible are called Zechariah, meaning 'God remembers'. It wouldn't have been the worst idea to name him after his father. Elizabeth is clear that the name is John, meaning 'God shows favour'. But how did she know? The text doesn't tell us. Her conviction was downplayed and her husband's authority sought, so reflecting the times. Once the name is written down, the fulfilment of God's promises is clear (Luke 1:20): Elizabeth became pregnant and bore a son; the son was named John. Zechariah can now speak again.

Promise and fulfilment is a powerful dynamic in Luke's Gospel, but often received with amazement (verse 63) or fear (verse 65). Elizabeth and Mary exhibited both of these emotions when their unexpected pregnancies were announced, but primarily responded with faith. Luke's Gospel shows particular respect for women of faith. We also note that poignant question in verse 66: "What then will this child become?" He became a prophet of good news for sure, and someone who suffered for it (Matthew 14:1-12).

To Ponder

  • What do you want to be when you grow up?
  • Who are the voiceless in today's world: longing to speak and be heard, but silenced?