The Birth of John The Baptist (Luke 1:57-66)


57 When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son.

58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her.g

59 * When they came on the eighth day to circumcise h the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father,

60 but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.” i

61 But they answered her, “There is no one among your relatives who has this name.”

62 So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called.

63 He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed.

64 Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God.j

65 Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea.

66 All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?” For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.


Note that the end of verse 63 says: [Zechariah] wrote “John is his name,” and all were amazed.

Amazed? Really?  What’s so amazing?

So, whenever we encounter something in scripture that makes us ask a question we need to slow down and focus on it.  These are the spots that beg for deep attention, prayer, and reflection.

So John and Elizabeth’s neighbors are amazed that they are naming their son John.  Why are they amazed? Are they amazed that Zechariah and Elizabeth broke with tradition and broke with social norms and didn’t give their kid a family name?  No, not really.  First, we need to understand what the name “John” means – “John” means God (YHWH) has shown [us] favor, or God has been gracious to [us].  O.k., so is it really that amazing that a couple of senior citizens who are “barren” and well beyond child bearing years would give God credit for blessing them with a son?  To me, it’s not so strange; it’s not really all that amazing that they would name their kid “God has shown favor”.  After all, if by some miracle Anita and I had a daughter now (or in years to come) we would name her Grace.  Isn’t that what Zechariah and Elizabeth are doing?  What’s so amazing about that?

In fact, take another look at verse 58.  It tells us that Elizabeth’s neighbors and relatives heard that “the Lord had shown His great mercy toward her”. (By giving her a son in her old age.  You see, in Ancient Israel, children were your social security.  They took care of you in your old age.  If you didn’t have children, then the quality of life in your senior citizen years was really in doubt.)  So anyway, wouldn’t everyone kind of think “gee, it only makes sense that they’re naming their kid John.”  What’s so amazing about this?

Well, as I said above, John means “God has shown favor” but implicit to this is that God has shown favor to “us”.  But who is the “us” that God has favored?  Is it Zechariah and Elizabeth?  Or could “us” be more inclusive?  Could “us” mean the Jews?  My answer is yes, and yes.  The “us” that God has been gracious to is Zechariah and Elizabeth AND the Jews.

The neighbors and relatives understood that the birth of John was very special indeed.  His conception is a miracle in itself, to a “righteous and blameless” couple, he would be born to a priest, a priest serving the people of Israel.  By a birth that was announced by an angle, announced in the Temple, announced in the Sanctuary of the Lord.  The neighbors and relatives understood that John would be very special for the Jews.

Read verse 66 again.  The relatives and neighbors know that the hand of the Lord would be upon John. And they wonder “what this child will be”.

We get to find out the answer to that question in tomorrow’s reading.

In the meantime, pray about who the “us” is that God has shown favor to and pray about what that favor might be.  I don’t think they neighbors could have known it back then, but the “us” is more than John and Elizabeth and even more than the Jews.  The “us” that God has shown favor to is all of humanity.  And tomorrow, we’ll start to see why.


Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition© 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

One Comment

  1. Ed February 10, 2016 Reply

Leave a Reply