Day 20

The Birth of John the Baptist

from the Advent 2017: Joy to the World reading plan

Luke 1:57-80

“His name is John” has such resonance, it makes one wonder whether it inspired Herman Melville’s infamous opening line from Moby Dick: “Call me Ishmael.” It’s like the flap of a butterfly wing that ripples into a hurricane of prophetic hope. Or maybe it is one more ripple in the sequence God started months earlier with an angel’s proclamation in the Holy of Holies (Luke 1:5-25). In that moment John’s father, Zechariah, was struck dumb for doubting God’s word, but now his tongue is loosed.

The birth of any baby is a miracle. But when a mute father begins to speak, gives his son a name appointed by God Himself, and then declares, “You child, will be called prophet of the Most High”—it truly makes people sit up and ask, “What will he become?”

Zechariah answers.

The priest begins with proclamations about God’s graciousness in providing redemption, salvation, and His steadfast mercy to Israel throughout the centuries. He describes God’s faithfulness in remembering His promises, and acknowledges the privilege Israel has been given in serving Him in righteousness. Then he turns to little John, an infant in his arms, and declares, “You will go before the Lord to prepare His way” (Luke 1:76).

What a destiny.

In the church we dedicate children to the Lord, or baptize them before the Lord, in the hope and belief that they will come to follow Him. That is a rich legacy, no doubt. But the dedication of John is uniquely divine; it’s a prophecy over the one who will make way for the Messiah, telling God’s people of His gift of salvation through forgiveness of sin. The message of mercy John will share will shine the light of Christ into the darkness of a lost world (John 12:46).

So many things about this story stand out: the naming of John, Zechariah’s healing, and the prophecy over his infant son. But what we should see above all is God’s care for humanity. He is a healer and a keeper of His word and His covenants. He is merciful, sending His messengers to prepare us for salvation. John laid the groundwork and cleared the path for the Messiah because God knew that was best. John’s natural birth was a supernatural gift given to prepare mankind for the most miraculous of births of all time.

Written by Barnabas Piper

Post Comments (3)

3 thoughts on "The Birth of John the Baptist"

  1. Jeff M. says:

    What a beautiful story of the pursuing nature of God…before Jesus even comes in flesh and bone, God prepares His way through this boy, John. Preparing a Way for what? For us to get to God? A new set of rules, how-to’s, list of things not to do? God Himself was coming to the lowly, broken, darkest places and spaces of humanity to restore what we had broken – perfect, loving communion with Him.

    I tend to be the one to take diagnostic tests of my faith life and then give a grade: How is my time in the word? How do I feel about it? Then based off of the answers to those, and other questions, I give a grade. But God doesn’t do such a thing. This pursuing God knew that we were all bound to flunk the proverbial test of life because of our sin. Because of my sin. He knew that we were so forgetful, so twisted inside to choose His stuff over Him at times, that He would come. And come humbly. What kind of great love is this?!?

    I would have come in pride and anger – but God comes graciously, lovingly, patiently manifesting Himself in the form of a baby. Not like we would have expected, and as the Israelites saw, not the way they believed He would come. Praise You Lord! Your ways are higher than ours, more beautiful and gracious than ours, and I pray You help to set our eyes on You. To commune with You – to rest in You, and in this pursuing love.

  2. Curtis Azevedo says:

    At this time in my life I have been praying to find my why. What is my purpose, and why do I not fit into the church. It is because I viewed it as what can I get from the church, by changing my thoughts to that in luke 1:77-79 I began to realize my purpose is to show peace and be a light. I must be at peace before I can show peace. This season has been a season of making peace with where I am so I can be peace to others!

  3. Alex G. says:

    I love that. Something prophetic is not exactly a blessing or a hope, but a message of what is to come. Zechariah prophesied over John knowing what his destiny was. God had set this plan out before the beginning of time. The Lord revealed this to Zechariah, and he only declared it by faith that it would become a reality. In the same way, we declare Christ as a reality that has come and will come again, by faith.

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