John the Baptist Sunday LSB #’s 655, 645, 643
Text – Luke 1:59-65a
And it came to pass on the 8th day that they went to circumcise the child, & they wanted to call him after the name of his father Zechariah. But his mother spoke up & said, “No! He is to be called John.” They said to her, “There’s no one among your relatives who is called by that name.” Then they motioned to his father, asking what he would like to name the child. He asked for a writing tablet, & to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “John is his name.” Immediately his mouth was opened & his tongue was loosed, & he began to speak, praising God. And fear came upon all who lived in their neighborhood.
AND HE BEGAN TO SPEAK
I expect that almost everyone here has heard the saying, “Talk is cheap,” but how many of you know the reason for that? I saw the answer on a church’s outdoor sign one day. It read, “Talk is cheap because there’s such an oversupply of it.” And often pastors are the very people guilty of it.
Talking too much is an occupational hazard for those of us in the ministry. Last Tuesday I had an appointment at 3:30 & after it was over, I asked the receptionist what time it was. When she answered that it’s 4:35, I jokingly replied, “That took over an hour?” The lady was real straight with me. “You talk too much,” she said.
And that was with someone’s fingers in my mouth. You see, the appointment was for getting my teeth cleaned, & I still talked too much.
One of my former shipmates, we used to call him Captain Kirk, just loved to talk about Ham radio & computers. If you were unfortunate enough to stand watch with him, he’d never stop talking for the entire six hours. You could fall asleep & he still would not stop talking. There are some people you just dread to get started.
But Zechariah didn’t have that problem anymore. For nine months he’d been unable to speak even one word. The angel Gabriel had rendered him silent because of his unbelief. God sent the angel to announce that Zechariah & Elizabeth would finally have the child they’d been praying for, for so many years. But now, they were now long past the age of childbearing. It’d take a miracle, & so, after the prophecy was given, the 1st words out of Zechariah’s mouth were words of doubt, “How can I be sure of this?”
Those were the last words he spoke until after his son, John the Baptist, was born. Zechariah had nine long months to reflect upon & to reconsider his actions. PAUSE
Words of doubt & unbelief; how often do we utter similar words or think similar thoughts? Have you ever cut someone to the heart by openly expressing your doubt in them? Have you ever taken time to reflect upon your unbelief & the hurt that it causes?
Zechariah did reconsider & the next time he spoke was with the words, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has come & has redeemed His people.” Zechariah is speaking as if Christ had already come. That’s how certain his faith in Christ was now. Those nine months of being disciplined by the Lord had caused his faith to grow.
And having grown his faith now begins to speak. Yet, as Zechariah began to speak, he brought fear to his neighbors. That wasn’t brought by his words, but by the mere fact that his ability to speak was so suddenly restored. He’d not been able to utter a word for over nine months & that silencing had occurred during the appearance of an angel.
Now the people recognize another miracle, and they ask, “What is this child going to be?” The hand of the Lord was so obviously involved in all of the circumstances surrounding this child John. As Zechariah is filled with the Holy Spirit, he begins his reply by praising God. Apart from a church service, when’s the last time you heard anyone praise God?
You might hear it on the street corner of a big city, but then you’d probably think that person’s on the lunatic fringe. If you reflect on it, in regular conversation, you just don’t hear people talking about God at all. He may not be dead, but He certainly is missing in our lives. And that’s not His plan at all. It’s God’s intention that we too should praise Him & speak of the glorious things He’s done. Yet someone can be near death & when we visit them we dance all around the issue. We bring them only pious words, but no true hope or comfort.
The things of God bring fear into our lives because we know they are beyond our control. They’re beyond our ability to comprehend or manipulate. And when we’re under stress, like being out of control, praising God doesn’t come naturally. When our nerves are stretched to the limit it’s completely natural for us to think only of ourselves.
Even those of us who talk too much commonly find ourselves talking about anything but the bright future we have in store with Jesus Christ. Instead of thinking or speaking words of doubt, we should be speaking the words of hope & encouragement that Christians have even during the trials, suffering & grief of this world.
We should be praising God for rescuing us from all of our failures, from all of our own doubts & fears. We should be speaking words of repentance for our unbelief & for the damage that it does to those around us. We harm people as we fail to speak of the hope which many so desperately need & are even searching for.
John the Baptist was born in order to go on before Christ & prepare the way for Him. Our Heavenly Father has called us to that same mission. We are to speak the words of Christ in order to prepare the way for Him; the way into other people’s hearts & lives.
The light of Christ then shines upon those living in darkness & on those living in the shadow of death. His light also guides their feet onto the path of peace. That light & peace are the direct result of hearing the Word of God, yet from our experience we seldom see that, because so many people today are rejecting God’s Word & the work that it would do.
The ways of the Lord are prepared by giving people the knowledge of their salvation, but
that knowledge is more than simply intellectual awareness. It’s a knowing, in the biblical sense of that word, which includes the concept of relationship. So, as people reject God’s Word they’re also rejecting the very relationship with Christ that God’s Word is empowered to create.
The Way which John & we ourselves have been sent to prepare, is both a journey in faith & a lifestyle of discipleship. It is a path to the Promised Land & a posture of confession in which we should walk. But there are two ways, one of Life & one of Death, & there’s a great difference between the two.
As we endure the pains of this life, as God disciplines us in order to conform us to the image of His only begotten Son, our faith too will grow & as it grows, it will begin to speak. We have a mission from God to act as His prophets & His priests. It’s our privilege to bring the light & the peace of God’s Word to people living in darkness & in the shadow of death.
As the Lord’s hand was with John through his conception, birth & ministry, the Lord’s hand is with you as well. God’s Spirit is ever present with His children to guide & protect you as agents of His forgiveness & of our salvation. His Spirit even stands ready to give you the very words to speak.
When the words of Christ are being spoken they are never cheap, for there can never be an oversupply of His forgiveness & grace. Amen.
The peace of God that surpasses all human understanding will guard your hearts & minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
P: Dear Heavenly Father, many of us have plenty of words to speak when they have nothing to do with Your love or forgiveness. Yet, when Your Spirit gives us opportunities to praise You, we often become afraid & lose faith. Lord, we believe. Help us in our unbelief. Give us the courage & power to speak Your Words of forgiveness even with our enemies, & to share the hope that You have given us for eternal life. Especially this day, we thank You for all the people You’ve sent with the courage to speak Your words of forgiveness to us. Lord, in your mercy,
Pastor Dean R. Poellet