Today’s reading is Luke 1:57-80:
The Birth of John the Baptist
57 Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. 58 And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. 59 And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, 60 but his mother answered, “No; he shall be called John.” 61 And they said to her, “None of your relatives is called by this name.” 62 And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called. 63 And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all wondered. 64 And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. 65 And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, 66 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.
67 And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,
68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has visited and redeemed his people
69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David,
70 as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
71 that we should be saved from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us;
72 to show the mercy promised to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
74 that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people
in the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.
What is your name?
In the modern western world names have become little more than labels. This idea is epitomized by the widely spread quote by William Shakespeare that states, “A rose by any other name would sound just as sweet.” This quote implies that names have no effect on one’s destiny or essence. While this may be true today, during biblical times names were quintessential to defining one’s essence.
The debate regarding the name of Elizabeth’s baby (who would later be known as John the Baptist) was a debate of existential consequences. The two possible names (Zechariah or John) would be the difference between the son being filled with the likeness of his father, also named Zechariah, or being filled with the likeness of The Father God. Fortunately, Elizabeth and Zechariah followed the commandment of the Lord by naming him John. This countercultural move of not naming him after the father shocked the entire city and left them wondering, “What then will this child become?” (John 1:66b). This child would become exactly what the God-given name said he would become. Just as Gabriel promised, John was filled with the Holy Spirit and through the spirit he was able to turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God (John 1:15-16).
As American Protestant Christians, we do not often tend to put much spiritual weight into our names; however, we can relate by making sure we are living our God-given identities and not our own worldly ones. For example, sometimes we want to trade in our God-given future for the socially acceptable one. Sometimes college students disobey God by choosing a “culturally acceptable” concentration, when God is trying to pull us in another direction. While these and many other things do not have to do with names, they do have to do with our identity that will evolve into our essence. Let us be sure to always identify by that to which God calls us and not what man expects of us.
Julian Nunally ’17 lives in Lowell House, and in his spare time throws rocks for sport. He is an aspiring minister and a lover of humanity.