And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father. And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John. And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name. And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called. And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all. – Luke 1:59-63
As God commanded Abraham (Genesis 17:12), Zacharias and Elisabeth have a ceremony to circumcise their son. The Jews took on a tradition, not a commandment, of naming the child on this because Abram’s name was changed to Abraham on the day he was circumcised.
When it came time to name the baby boy, everyone agreed that he should have his father’s name, Zacharias. That is, everyone agreed except Elisabeth. We don’t know how heated of an argument ensued, but an debate did occur at this point. It was not a custom among the Jews to name a child anything but a name already used in the family. It promoted the heritage and showed honor and respect. By going outside the norm, the people thought Elisabeth was being disrespectful, particularly to her silent husband who could speak for himself.
Therefore, the family went to Zacharias and used some form of sign language to ask him what he would like to name the child. His is response caused them all to marvel!
He wrote on the tablet, “His name IS John.” Notice that he did not say I would like to call him John. He said that his name was already John for he knew that God had named the child even before he was born according to the testimony of Gabriel.
The people marveled that Zacharias agreed with Elisabeth on choosing a non-family name. They, no doubt, marveled at the emphatic way he declared that the baby already had a name. And they were really about to marvel at what happened next…