Nativity of John the Baptist, Wednesday – 24th June 2020 — Gospel: Lk 1,57-66,80
Standing firm to God’s plan
In the culture of the Israelites, the name of a child was very significant. God sometimes changed the name of a person (Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, and Jacob to Israel). At other times, God gave the name of the child before birth (John and Jesus). The naming of the child of Zachariah and Elizabeth appears to be an emotional issue in today’s passage. The text deals with a family argument over the name of the child on the day of circumcision: between Elizabeth and relatives (1,57-61); Zechariah freed to praise God (1,62-64); public impact of the incident (1,65-66). The first thing the angel Gabriel did was to instruct the priest Zachariah regarding the name of the child (1,13). Under normal circumstances, the name Zechariah should have been given, keeping to his father’s name. But Elizabeth, standing her ground against relatives and neighbours, insisted to name the child as John. This is the first and strongest impression about Elizabeth’s prominence and determination to go against the tradition. Her actions were insistent and outspoken, because she was both godly and right in doing so. Normally, the father, who should lead this ceremony, is dumb, perhaps deaf and involved much less in this scene. He was made aware of the problem, and given the opportunity to decide upon the name of the child. It was even greater marvel to those assembled witnesses that he too chose the name John. For the parents, to be named by any other name would be opposed to God’s direction. They knew that John would never follow his father’s steps and would not serve as a priest. For the relatives, Elizabeth’s insistence was to renounce the family, its work, and its perpetuation through the next generation. Yet there were number of unusual or miraculous incidents associated with John’s birth and naming, which was witnessed by everyone before and after this child’s birth. Therefore Luke mentions that the expectation of the people in the area began to grow and concludes that “the hand of the Lord was with him”.