Naming children after family members is common in cultures around the world. To name a son “junior” after his father, for example, or to give a daughter a middle name after her grandmother, is often done as a way of showing respect and love and of honoring the past.
So it was quite normal that Zechariah and Elizabeth’s friends and relatives expected them to name their miracle baby after his father, or at least after family. After all, this would surely be an only child. In addition, in that day childlessness was seen as a source of social shame and perhaps even of God’s disfavor. The pregnancy was therefore not only a source of personal joy but also evidence of God’s mercy (v. 58). Elizabeth rejoiced because He had indeed removed her disgrace (v. 25; cf. Gen. 30:22–24).
It’s safe to assume that during the nine months of pregnancy, Zechariah had communicated Gabriel’s words to Elizabeth via writing. So when she spoke up at the circumcision and naming ceremony to say the child’s name was John (v. 60), it was an openhearted act of faith and obedience. Zechariah confirmed his wife’s declaration by writing the same name on a tablet, astonishing all who were present (v. 63). He had been waiting a long time for a second chance, and this time he didn’t stumble! Like his wife, he named their child in faith and obedience. His muteness was immediately lifted and he began to praise the Lord (v. 64).
The birth of John, and the faith and obedience of his parents, were a sign to the entire community. Indeed, word spread quickly through the region that God was at work (vv. 65–66). When we imitate this example and step out in faith and obedience, His name is glorified!