“Not so; he shall be called John.” And they said to her, “None of your kindred is called by this name.” (Luke 1:60-61)
Our Gospel passage today is such a classical drama. News goes round the neighbourhood that an old woman (the one who was nicknamed “barren woman”) has just given birth. Wow! This was trending on the Local Social Media; a lot of tweets and retweets, likes, comments and so on. Since it was customary for the child to be named on the eighth day, many people actually attended just to clear their doubts and see the baby for themselves.
You know when things happen like this, some family members suddenly assume larger-than-life positions. Persons you have not seen for ages show up from the blues and they want to dictate to you what you should do or not do in the name of “tradition.” They hold “elders’ council meeting” on your behalf and come up with decisions even without consulting you. In this case, they concluded that the child would be named “Zechariah.”
The practice of naming a child after his father is a way of giving honour to the father of the child; it is a way of saying that the father lives on. In essence, the child becomes a “copy” or some sort of “shadow” or better put, a “junior” to the Father. Whatever the child achieves in life only adds to the glory of the father. In fact, this would have been the best consolation to a man who had been a laughing stock all this life.
But then, giving the child “Zechariah” would have turned out as an act of disobedience to the Angel who clearly stated in Luke 1:13 “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.” It was a moment of choice for Zechariah, it was also a test! By naming the child John instead of Zechariah, Zechariah would no longer receive glory for the child; he would no longer be “senior” and it would be clear to all that this child is an act of God.
Put yourself in the shoes of Zechariah for a while and sincerely ask yourself which name you would choose.
You see, Elizabeth is such an extraordinary woman. In those days, just like in our African culture, women barely spoke in family meetings. Where did she get the boldness to challenge the decision of the elders? By the way, who even told her about the name “John”? Did Angel Gabriel also appear to her? It couldn’t have been Zechariah because he became dumb after the encounter with the Angel. This Elizabeth was truly a woman filled with the Holy Spirit!
In moments like this, most men would just prefer to keep quiet. You know, if Zachariah had kept quiet, the elders would have insisted that the name of the child is Zechariah. Elizabeth would have been asked to sit down because she was one against all. In the end, Zechariah won! He passed the test! He refused to keep quiet. He asked for a writing tablet and wrote: “His name is John.” He did not allow his ego stand in his way! He proved to all that the child after all was not a product of his personal effort.
For acknowledging God, for respecting the Angel’s message at last, God rewarded him with the RETURN of his Speech! Zechariah then sang a song thanksgiving to God blessing God for the gift of St. John the Baptist. What is the mouth meant for? Other than for praising God? Do not misuse your freedom of speech.
In the end, the naming of John the Baptist teaches us to look beyond the present moment of our lives in taking our decisions. Zechariah did not name his boy Zechariah but for ages upon ages to come, as long as the Christmas story is told, the world would continue to remember him. Zechariah lives on. OBEDIENCE is better than sacrifice.
Let us Pray: Lord Jesus, teach me to obey you always. Amen.
Bible Study: Malachi 3:1-4; 4:5-6, Psalm 80 and Luke 1:57-66).