I decided to read the story of Jesus from the Gospel of Luke this month. I like Luke because it is rich in detail. I also like Luke because the story starts before Jesus is born with the story of John the Baptist's birth. It's so interesting that John the Baptist and Jesus were related (their mothers were cousins I believe) physically as well as so closely connected spiritually. The story of the angel Gabriel appearing to John's father, Zacharias, was stunning. Zacharias ended up speechless, struck dumb by Gabriel when he didn't believe the angel's promise of becoming a father. Gabriel also told Zacharias what his son's name would be, as he later also told Mary what her son's name would be. Knowing the name helped Zacharias fix the identity and contemplate the destiny of his son, even before he was born. Since Zacharias was unable to speak, until John was actually born, his silent world lent itself more to meditation than to dialog with others. Imagine how often he reflected on his time with Gabriel and imagine how eager he was to be restored in speech so he could be restored to obey and to serve the Lord. Wouldn't it be wonderful for your name to have been provided by an angel? I wondered what the name John meant and, with the help of the internet, found that it means "The Lord is gracious". In Hebrew it would look something like: Yochanan or "Yahweh is gracious". John the Baptist's full Jewish name would be Yochanan ben Zechariah or "John, son of Zacharias". We know that John's purpose in life would be to prepare the Jewish people to receive their savior. Surely we discover that the Lord is gracious to us because he not only has given us the Savior...he has also prepared us to recognize and receive Him! Without preparation we can miss the closest of blessings and the greatest of experiences.
Luke 1:13 But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.