This account lies in between the back stories of these two miraculous births – John the Baptist and Jesus.
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.
Earlier in this chapter, we see the encounter that Zachariah has with the angel Gabriel. We see Zachariah’s disbelief when the angel informs him that he and his wife would have a child and that this child would be given the significant role of preparing the way for the Lord. Because of this disbelief he is struck mute – unable to speak. After this encounter, we meet Gabriel again, this time interacting with a lowly virgin, named Mary, preparing her for the role she would play in giving birth to God’s only son.
Zachariah has had time to ponder the significance of this birth and the encounter he had all those months ago with Gabriel. After all, it’s not every day we encounter an angel with such a startling life changing message to consider. The instant when Zechariah writes down that the child be named “John”—which was not a family name—his tongue is set free and he praises God. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he also preaches a song-like message about God’s plan of salvation, including the role of this miracle son John.
I’m struck in this encounter by this movement in Zachariah’s life. First, he is shown what God plans to do through him, then he does not believe, then he is struck dumb, or muted, as he watches on all the while observing God’s plan of salvation coming to fruition. This plan is a reversal of the ways in which many expected God to work. Here, we see humble little people – like Elizabeth, Zachariah, Mary and Joseph – being given significant roles in the coming of the kingdom of God. Yet, God uses the weak to show his glory, which is consistent with the upside-down nature of the Kingdom of God compared with the kingdoms of this age.
And it makes me wonder if we are not affected in similar ways. God’s kingdom has come with the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus and the adoption of many sons and daughters into his family. God’s kingdom continues to come in our hearts and in the circumstances of our lives and our relationships. He continues to bring sinners into his kingdom and continues to change those in his kingdom into the image of his son. How do we react when we see God at work? Do we disbelieve? Do we think that person won’t change? Do we have trouble believing that God could be working in this relationship?
Maybe we need to doubt less and praise more, believing that God’s plan continues to unfold even now just as it did in the beginning when Jesus was sent into this world to bring us home.
Head: Do you find it difficult to see God at work in your circumstances and your relationships?
Heart: How would your outlook on life and your feelings change if you believed that God’s plan of salvation was at work today in your life and in those about you?
Hands: Zachariah’s response to seeing God’s plan of salvation unfolding was to praise God. What is one thing you can praise God for in your life today?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you that your plan continues to unfold just as it did when Jesus was sent into the world to bring us home. Please help us to praise you in our lives daily. Please help us to see your plan of salvation at work in the world each and every day. Amen.
A song to listen to: Rejoice