There is no greater joy to a family than the addition of a new baby…unless you are a couple who have been unable to have children your entire marriage (which you view as a disgrace), you are both very old, and the Lord has shown favor to you to bless you with the forerunner with of the Messiah. Then, maybe you get a bit excited and you invite the whole family over to join in your joy. This is apparently what Zechariah and Elizabeth did when she had come full term and John was born. Relatives and family were there for the great occasion.
Luke records this event with a focus on the mercy of God (1.58). We usually think of the mercy of God in terms of salvation and forgiveness – God is so great in his mercy that he had compassion on sinful and sent his Son to die for us. By his mercy we are able to stand in presence and by his mercy he saved us. However, when it comes to the barren giving brith, we can see the mercy of God. God, who is rich in mercy, gives his humble servants Zechariah and Elizabeth a child who is to prepare the way of the Lord.
Luke then records for us the peculiar event of the naming of John. Elizabeth, knowing it would appear, that the angel has selected the name John for her baby emphatically says “not so” and states that he is to be called John. When the family and neighbors try to enlist Zechariah for help, he says that the childs name is already John (“His name is John,” versus Elizabeth’s state that he would be called John). In the original language, the name John comes first in the sentence, pressing the emphatic necessity that the child’s name is John. Zechariah views his encounter with the angel as something serious and acknowledges the word of the angel as haivng already come to pass.
Immediately, Zechariah’s mouth is loosed and he can speak. Notice the first thing he does: praises God. After months of silence, the first thing he seeks to do is praise the God who has shown mercy to his wife and him. Suppose this had been one of us. What would be the first thing out of our mouths having been struck dumb for unbelief? We can learn a valuable lesson from these simple and humble people that we ought to be praising God at all times for his great mercy that he has shown us.
One final note over this account: notice what happens when the mute man praises God – everyone is filled with awe. This is another theme in Luke, this amazement and awe that people have when something incredible/miraculous takes place. People began to understand that this was “God’s event.” God is at work in this situation and this child is going to be something special. As one commentator has said: “Plainly the events that had just occurred protended some mighty action of God.”