57 Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. 58 And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. 59 And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, 60 but his mother answered, “No; he shall be called John.” 61 And they said to her, “None of your relatives is called by this name.” 62 And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called. 63 And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all wondered. 64 And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. 65 And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, 66 and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him.” (Luke 1:57-66)
Don’t you love it when extended families and friends get together for the holidays? I sure do. I fondly remember when as a child growing up, my extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins would gather Christmas Day afternoon at my grandparent’s home. What a gathering it was. There was good food, great friendships, and a whole lot of laughter and conversation. For me, and I’m sure for others, it was one of the high points of the Christmas holiday season.
It is often the case that when neighbors or relatives get together there are a lot of opinions about whatever subject being discussed. It might be about politics, sports, the weather or an upcoming wedding or birth of a child.
Such was the case with Zechariah’s and Elizabeth’s friends and relatives. When John was born to the couple as God had promised, their neighbors and relatives rejoiced with them. No surprise there. The couple’s friends and family were as happy for them as they were for themselves.
However, when the time came for the baby to be circumcised, everyone thought the child would, and should, be named Zechariah, after his father. That sounded reasonable they thought. The child would be called Zechariah Jr. However, Elizabeth answered and informed one and all that the boy’s name would be John. Their friends and relatives were stunned, perplexed and stated that none of their relatives were named John. Why this surprising choice of a name for their newborn son?
Not to be deterred, the neighbors and relatives went to Zechariah and asked him what the boy’s name should be. Let the boy’s father decide. The people were struggling with this conflict of custom or tradition. Principle and custom were clashing.
However, Zechariah wrote on a writing tablet that his son’s name “is” John. The people were amazed and astonished but Zechariah began to speak and blessed God.
The result was that great fear and reverence came upon all of Zachariah’s and Elizabeth’s neighbors and relatives. They began to wonder what manner of child John would be. Luke inserts the parenthetical phrase that the hand or presence of the Lord was with John.
Dr. John Walvoord notes that, “The people continued to note that the Lord’s hand was with him. Years later, when John began his preaching ministry, many went out from this district who no doubt remembered the amazing events surrounding his birth (Matt. 3:5).”
Remember that peer pressure is not just an experience that teenagers encounter. Adults experience it also. Just like Zechariah and Elisabeth. However, they did not give in to the crowd’s point of view for tradition but remained steadfast in their obedience to the Lord commands. So should we.
May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.
Soli deo Gloria!