57 When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58 Her neighbors 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 neighbors 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.
What’s in a name? Family lines and family names were very important to the Jewish people. The name of a child was always very significant. Naming a baby after Zechariah, a priest, would surely mean that this baby would follow in his father’s footsteps and become a holy man as well. It must have been very confusing to the family when both Elizabeth, and then Zechariah chose to name their baby John.
God had changed people’s names before; Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, and Jacob to Israel, but this time it was different. God had chosen the name John, which means “the Lord is gracious” for this baby and He told Zechariah that this baby was to prepare the way for the Messiah. When Zechariah acted in faith and confirmed the baby’s name was indeed John, his voice returned and he praised God with his first words.
God knew He had a specific and important mission for this child’s life, and by confirming the chosen name, Elizabeth and Zechariah showed that they had faith in God’s plan for their child. God has a plan for each of us. We must show our faith in Him by being open to His word and direction in our lives. Sometimes the path is not a clear one, not one that we would chose for ourselves. When we find ourselves being open to his plan, God’s many blessings can come to us as we share His blessings with others, just as they did for John the Baptist.