Thursday 23 December 2010

Bible Book:

"'His name is John.' And all of them were amzed. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God." (vv. 63-64)

Luke 1:57-66 Thursday 23 December 2010


The name John means, in Hebrew, 'God has shown his favour' andthis is the theme of much of chapter 1 of Luke's Gospel (God showshis favour to Mary (v. 48) and to Elizabeth (v.25)). However because Luke's original hearers are thought tohave been Greek speakers it is not likely that the meaning of thename was the intended focus of this passage. Rather, what isunderlined is the miraculous source of the name. 

Independently both Elizabeth and Zechariah have been told that theboy is to be called John. The amazement of the neighbours (v. 63)emphasises the event as a miracle. For this is precisely thereaction of the crowds to Jesus' calming of the storm (Luke8:25); the exorcism of the boy with a demon (Luke9:43) and the casting out of the demon that was mute (Luke11:14). 

Zechariah's muteness is an interesting feature of the story. Whenearlier (Luke 1:18) he questioned the angel Gabrielabout how an old couple might conceive a child he was struck dumb.His inability to speak is not removed until John has been named.Given that questioning angels who bring such news is not uncommon(compare Zechariah's reaction in verse 18 with Mary's in verse34) it seems harsh that Zechariah should lose his speech,seemingly as a punishment (v.20). Nine months of speechlessness, however, seems to work amiracle in Zechariah. As the child John grows inside Elizabeth, inZechariah grows a faith that once his mouth is opened (v. 64),bursts out into praise. 

This is the proper response to God's mighty acts. Charles Wesleyalludes to it in his hymn, "O for a thousand tongues": 

Hear him, ye deaf; his praise, ye dumb, 
your loosened tongues employ; 

And the Order for Morning Prayer from the Methodist Worship Bookmakes it plain that as God opens our lips, our first words shouldbe words of praise: 

O Lord, open our lips, 
and we shall praise your name. 

Not only is this the proper response to the miraculous and theextraordinary, but also to the ordinary miracle of daily life thatGod sustains in being. 

To Ponder

Who chooses a child's name in your culturaltradition? What would it mean to set this aside for a name of God'schoosing?

Why do you think Zechariah is struck dumb whilstMary is not?

How would you define a miracle? Has one everhappened to you?

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