24 June 2019

Luke 1:57-66, 80

“He is to be called John.” (v. 60)

Psalm: Psalm 80:1-7


Today we mark the birth of John the Baptist. At eight days old the child was presented to friends and family at the home of Elizabeth and Zechariah. He is also presented to God through the ceremony of circumcision.

It was the day for naming the child and traditionally the first born son would be named after his father or, more commonly, his grandfather. But Elizabeth and Zechariah were very clear that this child will be called John – a name with no family links at all. The guests were perplexed and can't understand why Elizabeth chose this name. They appealed to the silenced Zechariah who supported his wife. He would have had the angel's voice ringing in his ears, "Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John" (Luke 1:13). This time Zechariah wanted to get it right and demonstrate that he now believed the message the angel brought to him (Luke 1:5-24).

The guests were confused by the choice of name, but also admired the strength of the insistence of Elizabeth and Zechariah. They did not know about the visit of the angel and the miraculous conception, but the choice of the name begins to reveal something of God's involvement in this child's life. The words of the angel have come to fruition and Zechariah's curse of dumbness has come to an end. Now Zechariah believes the promise made by the angel and he blesses God (verses 68-79).

The guests were even more confused now. What was happening does not fit with the way a circumcision and naming ceremony usually unfolds. There was something special happening here, this child had a God given destiny and it was beginning to be revealed. The stage was now fully set for John's role in the story of Jesus.

To Ponder:

  • The story of Elizabeth and Zechariah is often lost in the bigger story of Christmas; if you have time, read the whole of Zechariah and Elizabeth's story in Luke 1. What strikes you about the story as you read at this time of the year?
  • Why do you think the choice of name is so important?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Richard Clutterbuck

Richard Clutterbuck is a minister of the Methodist Church in Britain. Between 2004 and 2017 he served the Irish Methodist Church as principal of Edgehill Theological College in Belfast. Previously his ministry has been divided between pastoral appointments in North London and theological education in the South Pacific (Tonga), Britain and Ireland.

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