Summary: What is the significance of John's birth and Zechariah's subsequent psalm of praise? You might be surprised
Grace Community Church
Rev. Bradford Reaves, Sr. Pastor
Watch This Message https://youtu.be/CORgr5C5ky8
Today we’re going to get right into this message. I’m not going to spend much of my introductory time covering announcements or thoughts on current events because I think this message is centered around all of that. In fact, I’m making a note right here to reevaluate this message according to the current events compared to when this was written at the end of October. So with that, we are going to get into this message
1. The Birth of John the Baptist
Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. And on the eighth day, they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, but his mother answered, “No; he shall be called John.” And they said to her, “None of your relatives is called by this name.” And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called. And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all wondered. And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, 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 ESV)
Here it is. If you remember back to Luke 1:13, the Angel Gabriel appears to Zechariah during his priestly duties at the Altar of Incense to tell Zechariah that he and his wife (both well-past the age of having children), that they will conceive a son and they are to name that child John. John is to be the forerunner of the Messiah as prophesied in Isaiah 40:3. But Zechariah does not believe Gabriel and therefore Gabriel renders Zechariah mute until the time John is born (Luke 1:18-20).
As we just read, after John is born, Zechariah confirms his name is John and he is able to speak once again. The people understand all of this as a move of God. They recognize God is at work. Everyone is filled with “awe” (phobos). This word regularly describes fear and reverence that befall humans in the immanence of God. (James R. Edwards, The Gospel according to Luke, ed. D. A. Carson, The Pillar New Testament Commentary).
Here’s what the church needs to know. I mentioned when I preached about Zechariah’s encounter with Gabriel, in my message The Cost of Doubt, that there is a price to pay for unbelief. It mutes God’s people from leading others to the truth because we ourselves doubt the truth. The progressive result of unbelief is apostasy among God’s people.
The Church is in a season of unbelief. Many churches are great at “producing” captivating and exciting services, but there’s no meat. We don’t need God other than to be the subject of our entertainment. Thus the church has effectively become inarticulately aphasic. That doesn’t mean that good work isn’t being done. But the same could be said about the Jewish people prior to the coming of Christ.
Elizabeth names the baby John at his circumcision. Everyone protests. “None of your relatives is called by this name’ ” (Luke 1:61). Now it is time for Zechariah to restore himself with God. This was not the name that Zechariah had chosen. It was the name God had chosen. Nothing else was acceptable. Zechariah writes on a tablet “His name is John” on a tablet (Luke 1:63) and instantly his voice is restored (Luke 1:64).
2. Zechariah’s Opening Prophesy
Luke 1:67 ESV
And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, (Luke 1:67 ESV)
What results is a prophetic utterance, from Zechariah? Luke tells us in Luke 1:67 that he is full of the Holy Spirit. That’s critical to understand here. The church must be constantly filled and led by the Holy Spirit. Some people have shied away from this idea because of misconceptions derived from charismatic movements. That’s not what I’m talking about. I talking about a church intent on being driven by the Spirit in its worship, its leadership, and its view of Scripture. As opposed to a church that is driven by man-made entertainment, strategies, business models, and aspirations.
The first thing Zachariah speaks after nine months of being mute is a prophetic praise to God. Zacharias’ prophetic utterance is powerful and it deserves our full attention. Now you might read this passage and pass them by without really stopping and considering the depth (scripturally and theologically) of what he said. We can’t do that. In fact, it's going to take us a couple of weeks to get through this. What I want to do for the rest of today and next week is move through this piece by piece and then loop back around to summarize what this means to us as we go along.