Elisabeth’s baby was a boy, as Gabriel had predicted, and her neighbours and her cousins heard how the Lord had shewed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her. And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father. And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John. And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name. And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called. And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all. And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God.
The people were puzzled wondering what kind of a child this would be.
His father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; The oath which he sware to our father Abraham, That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life. Zacharias gave praise to God and said that the Messiah was on His way, the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant.
Then, he spoke to his baby son: And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Compare Zacharias’ words with these passages:
- Isaiah 40:3 Isaiah prophesied about John 700 years before his birth. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
- Matthew 17:11-13 This is a reference to a prophecy found in Malachi 4:5-6 where John is referred to metaphorically as “Elias”: And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.
- Mark 1:2-4 As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.
- John 1:7-8, 15, 22-23, 29-32 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. . . . Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias. . . . The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him.
- John 5:32-35 Jesus said of John, There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true. Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth. But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved. He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light.
So, John grew up and presented Christ to the world. He fulfilled his purpose. It’s interesting that the Bible uses almost the same words to describe John’s growing up as it uses for Jesus. They are both in Luke’s gospel. And the child (John) grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel (Luke 1:80). Compare with Luke 2:52 about Jesus: And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.
Behold the Lamb of God,
which taketh away the sin of the world.
It’s the message of Christmas.
(Quotes from Luke 1:57-80, unless otherwise noted. Photos are from www.freebibleimages.org. If you missed the first part of the story of John the Baptist’s birth, just scroll down.)