The Book of Luke, The Naming of John and his Beginnings, Part I – Lesson 12
Luke 1:57-80, Now Elisabeth’s full time came that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son. 58And her neighbours and her cousins heard how the Lord had showed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her. 59And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father. 60And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John. 61And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name. 62And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called. 63And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all. 64And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God. 65And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judaea. 66And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be! And the hand of the Lord was with him. 67And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying, 68Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, 69And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; 70As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: 71That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; 72To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; 73The oath which he sware to our father Abraham, 74That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, 75In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life. 76And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; 77To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, 78Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, 79To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. 80And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his showing unto Israel.
How many of you are named after your father, your mother, or a relative? I was named after my Father and was called Sonny when I was a child to differentiate from my father.
The naming of children can be a very taxing and time consuming process.
My wife and I have entered into a few conversations with our son and daughter in law concerning the name of our coming granddaughter next month which at this point is still unnamed.
They have a long list of possible names and seem to have a set of criteria which the name must meet.
Relatives names, ethnic names, nice sounding names etc.
There are many in our culture who desire to name their children with unusual and difficult names.
And the more difficult to spell the name, the better it seems.
Today the name must sound right, and must go together with the middle name in a pleasant flow of sylables.
It must not have any unpleasant connotations or be connected with persons of bad reputation.
Names today do not appear in most cases to have any relation to family names but on many occasions they appear out of the blue.
But in the culture of the Israelites, the name of a child was very significant.
The biblical concept of naming was rooted in the understanding that a name was to express the sum and substance of the child.
To know the name of a person was to know that person’s total character and nature.
Revealing character and destiny, personal names might express hopes for the child’s future.
The name was in essence a hope for the child to become the name he was given.
The parent could say, Live up to your name. It was always in front of the child. I saw the name Trinkette in the paper today. Live up to your name Trinkette! What does that mean?
It used to be drilled into children that they were to honor their name by their life and to not bring disgrace on the family name was a motivating factor of life.
In many cases in the Bible we find the task of naming a child falling to the mother as we see in the naming of the sons of Jacob.
The last son of Jacob and Rachel received a name from each parent; Jacob altering the name Rachel gave from Benoni (Son of my sorrow) to Benjamin (Son of the My Right Hand)(Gen. 35:18).
And naming could be attributed to God originating through a divine birth announcement as we see in Gen. 17:19, where God told Sarah that her son would be named Issac (laughter) and here in Luke where we see that Elisabeth’s son was to be named John. (Luke 1:13).
God sometimes changed the name of a person, such as changing the name of Abram to Abraham, of Sarai to Sarah, and of Jacob to Israel.
At other times, God gave the name of the child before birth.
Such is the case with both John and Jesus as we have seen in our passage in Chapter one of Luke.
Our scripture that we read this morning has to do with a family argument over the name which was to be given the child of Zacharias and Elizabeth.
When Gabriel informed Zacharias that he and his wife would have a child in their old age, the first thing he did was to instruct this priest as to what the child’s name would be:
Luke 1:13, But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.
It is not until the events of our text, which occur at the time of John’s circumcision, that this divinely given instruction causes any difficulty.
Suddenly, the naming of John ends up in what appears to be a rather emotional issue, with Elizabeth standing her ground against an unnamed group of relatives/observers, who are insisting that the boy be named after his father.
The question which we must bear in mind as we approach our study of this passage is, “Why would Luke bother to include the account of a family argument over the name of a child?”
It is only in Luke’s Gospel that the births of John and Jesus are recorded together.
It is only in Matthew and Luke that any events in the early life of these two boys is recorded.
Why, then, when there is so much that could have been reported about the early life of these two men, is this account selected by the author?
Our purpose in this study will be to try to understand what was taking place at the circumcision of John, and why Luke thought this event was worthy of being included in his history (and, as would become the case, the Bible).
I believe that there are some very important principles to be learned here, which continue to be as relevant to us as they were to John and his parents.