What’s in John’s Name?

We Must Answer Well, part 2

(To read in order, click: Answer Well)

Last time, we talked about the tone of the dialogue we need to have with our kids and how we need to start by listening. We then visited Genesis 1:26-27, Leviticus 5:17-19, and Matthew 18:5-7. Worth a review.

(And please take the time to read and consider the scriptures as we go.)

We ended with the questions:

  • What if the person is beyond the state of being confused?
  • What if you know the person has, based on the person’s own admittance, started acting out sexually as another gender?
  • What is our responsibility then?
  • And what should our approach be?

The Beginning of a Really Long Answer

Let’s look at the lives and writings of 5 people: John the Baptist, Jesus, Peter, Paul, and the writer of Hebrews.

The Death of John the Baptist

There’s quite a lot to get from John the Baptist. We’ll start with his death, in which people are discussing whether or not John and Jesus are the same person.

Mark 6:14
And King Herod heard of it, for His name had become well known; and people were saying, “John the Baptist has risen from the dead, and that is why these miraculous powers are at work in Him.” But others were saying, “He is Elijah.” And others were saying, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” But when Herod heard of it, he kept saying, “John, whom I beheaded, has risen!”

We often remember that Herod kills John to fulfill an oath made to his wife’s daughter (not his own daughter), but why does Herodias want John killed?

Mark 6:17
For Herod himself had sent and had John arrested and bound in prison on account of Hernias, the wife of his brother Philip, because he had married her. For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” Hernias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death and could not do so; for Herod was afraid of John, known that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. And when he heard him, he was very perplexed; but he used to enjoy listening to him.

Herodias wants John silenced, even though John is not directly speaking against her actions, but against Herod’s actions. How did Herod marry the wife of his brother in the first place? Is his brother still alive? Where is Philip? Is he dead?

John is not in prison for saying, “You committed murder.” He’s there for saying, “It is not lawful…” John has been confronting Herod with God’s law.

Notice the different responses to John’s message and God’s law: one wants to kill John, and one is not sure what to do with John but knows that he is righteous and holy.

John’s Birth

Every Christmas, we hear the angel tell Mary and Joseph to name the baby Jesus (which means, “He saves”). Luke’s Gospel also tells us of an angel visiting John the Baptist’s father.

Luke 1:13-17
But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

The name John, in Hebrew, means “God is gracious.” The angel says God’s plan is to send John before “Him … to turn the hearts…” God graciously wants the people prepared for Jesus and He’s sending John to prepare hearts.

And God fulfills His word spoken by the angel.

Luke 1:39-45
Now at this time Mary arose and went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. And she cried out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.”

Apparently John is filled with the Holy Spirit when he leaps in his mother’s womb, and Elizabeth, when filled with the Holy Spirit cries out and speaks, prophesying, for Mary had not yet told Elizabeth at all.

What happens next? When John is born and given his name, ‘God is gracious’

Luke 1:67-68, 76-

…his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying:
“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people…

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
For you will go on before the Lord to prepare His ways;
To give to His people the knowledge of salvation
By the forgiveness of their sins,
Because of the tender mercy of our God,
With which the Sunrise from on high will visit us,
To shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
To guide our feet into the way of peace.”

John’s Life

John’s life is not his own to do with whatever he wants. No. He is to prepare the Lord’s way. He is to give people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins. John has to talk about sin. Other people’s sin. And he has to give them knowledge of salvation.

Why? Why is God sending John to talk to people about sin?
Because God is gracious.

It is because of God’s grace that sin must be brought up and not left hidden.

God sends John to “turn hearts” from “disobedient” to an “attitude of righteousness,” and sometimes, like with Herodias, that’s going to bring up conflict. Tough job, no doubt. But God fills John with the Holy Spirit from the very beginning. And John’s parents, too. It’s not a job John’s meant to do without God.

What Should Our Response Be?

We can begin to answer this question. But we also have to rethink it.

Jesus is coming again. Are we supposed to be like John?

Should we be turning hearts from disobedience to attitudes of righteousness?

Rethink the words “our response” and “should we”. John did NOT do what God asked him to do on his own. He had the Holy Spirit.

If we think we need to respond, that “we” needs to include the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gave both Elizabeth and Zacharias the words to speak. If “we” are going to speak, God’s words would be best.

If so, we need to be gracious, because God is gracious.

If so, we need to stand by God’s law, His standards, His definition of sin and not our own or the world’s choice of what it will and won’t accept. Even if conflict comes.

Herod and Herodias were married. A family. One family member was willing to listen to John, the other wasn’t. God’s law is like that. Some people can’t stand it, while others are curious and actually like to hear it. Herod liked listening to John.

The point? From the outside, we can’t tell who will listen and who won’t. We can only tell that John was persistent. “John had been saying to Herod, ‘It is not lawful…’”

This wasn’t a one-time speech. It was John, filled with the Holy Spirit, speaking to Herod because God is gracious.

Will we be gracious too?

…more coming

Up Close with God


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