He motioned for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s surprise he wrote, “His name is John!” - Luke 1:63
On Thanksgiving Day, 1999, the crew of a Florida fishing boat plucked 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez from the Atlantic Ocean. The Cuban child was lashed to an inner tube on which he had floated for two days. The small boat in which he and thirteen other people were trying to escape from Cuba had capsized, and Elian’s mother and ten others had perished in the ocean. Once on dry land and cared for by relatives in Miami, Elian’s problems seemed to be over. But he soon became the key person in a massive tug-of-war that started between his father, who wanted him returned to him in Cuba, and his Cuban-American family members in Florida, who insisted that, as his mother obviously had wished him to live in America, he should be allowed to stay. Elian’s welfare sparked an international incident. Presidents became involved, flag-waving patriots demonstrated, politicians postured, and Elian learned how to wear a baseball cap backwards. Fortunately, not all family disagreements reach such proportions!
Centuries-old tradition required that Zechariah and Elizabeth’s newborn son should be circumcised as evidence that he had been introduced into the privileges and responsibilities of God’s covenant with his people, and the family happily gathered to witness the event (Luke 1:59). But trouble started when the topic of the boy’s name was introduced. The family insisted that he should be named after his father, Zechariah, who unfortunately had lost his voice during the spiritual encounter in which the announcement of the boy’s birth was made (1:8-20).
To everyone’s surprise, Elizabeth insisted that the boy should be called John, and his father wrote his agreement on a tablet (1:63). And so it was, for this is what the angelic messenger had instructed (1:13).
John means “God has shown favor.” The significance of the unusual name, the remarkable circumstances of John’s birth, and the instantaneous recovery of his father’s voice were not lost on the family. They recognized something big was in the air, and so they asked, “I wonder what this child will turn out to be?” (1:66). What John turned out to be is history, but his parents’ courage and commitment to follow divine instructions played a major role in John’s development.
Parents should never underestimate the importance of their obedience to the Lord in the training and development of their children. Sometimes this requires taking a stand even against loved ones. What matters in the long term is not keeping the family happy but ensuring that the child knows that “the hand of the Lord is surely upon him” (1:66).
For Further Study: Luke 1:57-66