What’s in a name? Well, a lot, apparently, as we read in Luke chapter 1.
When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58 Her neighbours and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.
59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60 but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”
61 They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”
62 Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63 He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 All the neighbours were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things.66 Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.
A couple of months ago, I was driving with my mum when an interview came over the radio with a singer named Gordi. Well, her real name is Sophie Payten, so the interviewer asked her how she got the nickname “Gordi”. “Well…” she said, “My brother just started calling me that as a kid,and it stuck.”
My mother turned to me and quipped, “Lucky you didn’t become a famous musician!” As a child my nickname was Binny, as in Rubbish Binny. I was given this name, because I ate all the leftovers, even my sister’s leftover baby food.
So Sophie Payten was given a name for no real reason,and I was given a name because of my eating habits. But here in the first chapter of Luke, we read about a baby given an unusual name not for any habit they could see in him. His name was given to him before he was born, because of what he would do.
Now, to us, John seems like one of the most common names around. But in the culture John was born into, names were passed down in families, and there was nobody in John’s family with the name John. So this was a big deal. Earlier in Luke 1, we read about an angel appearing to John’s father Zechariah, telling him he would have a baby who was to be named John. And among the many things that John would do, he was going to “make ready a people prepared for the Lord”.
After this was declared, the angel made Zechariah mute until this would come true, which sets the scene for the passage we come to today. As the passage starts, Zechariah is mute, and needs to write to communicate. But after he declares the name of his son – John – his mouth is opened and he pours out with praise for God and the promises that would come through his son.
And so, John was not like Gordi or Binny. His name brought with it great promise of what was to come – making way for our Lord Jesus. People were to notice his strange name, and see that he was special. He was to draw people to praise Jesus, the one who would one day save us all through his life, death and resurrection.
Head: What purpose can you see for God sending John to prepare the way for Jesus?
Heart: John was to “make ready a people prepared for the Lord”. Has your heart been opened to the Lord Jesus?
Hands: What can we do this week to point people to Jesus, as John did?
Prayer: Heavenly father, we thank you for John and the way you used him to serve you and bring praise to your name. But more than that, we thank you that he prepared people for Jesus, the one you would send to save mankind. We are so, so in awe of the way you work through strange names and strange circumstances to draw people to you in ways we could never predict. Keep our hearts in awe of you and our mouths forever praising you. Amen.
A song to listen to: No Other Name