The Witness to the Savior
This week, our portion of Scripture comes from Luke 1:57-80.
The prophet, Zechariah’s wife, Elizabeth, has just given birth to a son, bringing great rejoicing from their relatives and neighbors, who heard that “the Lord had shown great mercy to her” (v. 58). They assumed that he would just be named “Zechariah” after his father, but Elizabeth breaks into their conversation about his name by firmly stating, “No; he shall be called John” (v. 60).
“But…but…no one in your family has that name!”
Giving Zechariah a tablet, he simply wrote, “His name is John” (vv. 61-63).
The questions and wonder on the people’s faces only increased when Zechariah’s once mute mouth broke out in a prayer of praise to God.
Wonder turned to awe and fear, with the heart questions of the people rumbling through the hills, “What then will this child be?” for they could see that God’s hand was on him (v. 66).
But if they truly listened to Zechariah’s next words, it is likely they would have been asking about the Savior to come—the one John was sent to prepare people’s hearts for.
“And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,
‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has visited and redeemed his people
and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we should be saved from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us;
to show the mercy promised to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
in the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.’” (Luke 1:67-79)
Reading these words from Zechariah’s song, we notice that although this prophecy concerns John, it is more so about Jesus. While Zechariah’s song may speak of John’s going before Jesus to prepare people for his coming (v. 76), the words of this prophecy are overwhelmingly about the greatness of God and his Savior who is to come. Years later, John would tell his disciples of the great joy that was his because the people were leaving him to follow Jesus. “’I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:28-30).
In this song, John is mentioned and what his role will be as God’s prophet, but the fuller message is about the greatness of God and the beauty, majesty, and worth of his coming Son.
- As in the story of Ruth and Boaz, once again God has “visited and redeemed his people” by sending them the Word in human flesh (v. 68; Ruth 1:6, 4:1-14; Is. 7:14; John 1:1, 14).
- Salvation is coming through this Son, through one of David’s descendants, but it will not be the ordinary, military salvation that the people were waiting for (v. 69, Deut. 18:15, Acts 3:22-26). This Savior will save sinners from their sins (Matt. 1:21).
- God has remembered his people and the covenant he made with them, but this salvation and the fulfillment of his covenant will be something far greater than the overthrow of the Roman government or a land promise (vv. 70-75; Luke 22:20; Heb. 9:15).
- In tender mercy, Jesus will bring salvation and forgiveness of sins (vv.77-78; 1 John 1:9; Eph. 1:7; Matt. 26:28; Ps. 116:5).
- Jesus will also “give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death” (v. 79; Is. 9:2; John 8:12; 1 Pet. 2:9). Jesus doesn’t just bring light to darkness, he gifts it to those who are in darkness and death’s shadow. This is good news for oppressed, suffering people. This is good news for the dying and those who are under death’s shadow. And this is good news for sinners.
- Finally, Jesus will bring peace (v. 79; Is. 9:6; John 14:27, 16:33; Phil. 4:7). Not a peace that is temporary and limited, but a deep, everlasting peace that can only be found in Jesus’ reconciliation of sinful humanity to a righteous, holy God.
God had a unique role for John to fulfill, but it was always in reference to the coming of his Son. In going before Jesus, John was to prepare people to behold Jesus. But more than simply beholding the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29), they (and we) need to see and believe that Christ came into the world to save us from our sins and died to bring us to God. May this Advent season find us more deeply treasuring, loving, and worshiping our Savior. And in all that we do this season, would God help us more fully die to ourselves so the people in our lives would see far less of us and much more of Jesus. Would the Lamb receive the honor that is due to his worthy name!