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Summary: Year C. The Nativity of St. John The Baptist Luke 1: 57-66, 80 June 24th, 2001 Title: “When God names a person”

Year C. The Nativity of St. John The Baptist Luke 1: 57-66, 80 June 24th, 2001

Title: “When God names a person”

This is story of the birth of John, his circumcision, naming, and manifestation to relatives and neighbors along with a notice of his eventual manifestation to all of Israel.

Luke tells the story of the events surrounding the birth of Jesus and John by setting them side by side each other. Such a technique enables him to highlight the unique role each will have in God’s plan and to show Jesus as superior to John in just about every detail. If the angel Gabriel announces the birth of John to the husband, Zechariah, of the barren Elizabeth, he announces the birth of Jesus directly to the virgin Mary. Then Mary visits Elizabeth, who joyfully witnesses to the incomparable superiority of the baby in Mary’s womb compared to the one in her own. Mary sings a canticle and so does Zechariah. Both sons are divinely named before their birth and circumcision, although their names are not made public until eight days had passed. There are many other parallels as well. However, Luke clearly wants to show that Jesus, not John, is the Messiah. He also wants to show, at the outset of his gospel, what he will show in his second volume, Acts, that there are also parallel patterns between the life of Jesus and the lives of his disciples. The first two chapters of Luke are not only an overture to the Gospel but to Acts as well. John the Baptist stands for two truths in the New Testament. First, he is the model for all Christians who prepare for the final coming of Christ as John did for his first coming. Second, he stands as the model for the one person or several persons who are the means by which God prepares each Christian to convert to Christ. As such John the Baptist is a very important figure for Christians.

In verse fifty-seven, when the time arrived…she gave birth to a son: Luke sees God’s plan unfolding, but only in its proper time or “timing” time, Greek kairos, which both respects the earthly laws of time, Greek chronos, and God’s timetable, the “fullness” of time. That Elizabeth bore a son as it was prophesied she would underlines God’s fidelity, that is, He delivers on His word of promise, and His mercy, that is, He not only removed the stigma of barrenness from Elizabeth but also gave her a son, her only son, to carry on the family name. The latter, of course, would not in fact happen. This son will neither be named after a family member, nor will he marry and sire children. However, for now, the possibility is there and is cause for rejoicing.

In verse fifty-eight, Her neighbors and relatives…shared her joy: Joy would be the hallmark of the kingdom Jesus would establish and John would prepare the people of Israel to accept. This joy radiates out from the yet-to-be-born John in Elizabeth’s womb, to Elizabeth and Zechariah, to relatives and neighbors, to all of Israel.

In verse fifty-nine, …on the eighth day to circumcise the child: Circumcision marks John, as it will Jesus, with the “sign of the covenant” Genesis 17: 11, and incorporates him into Israel. Circumcision also meant the eventual obligation of observing Mosaic Law. Since Luke will stress in his second volume, Acts, that Christianity is a logical outgrowth of Judaism, both the circumcision of John and Jesus are important to note in this “overture” section.

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