Jesus names the greatest man in history. In Luke 7:28, He says, “I tell you, of all who
have ever lived, none is greater than John. Yet even the least person in the Kingdom of God is
greater than he is!”
He’s talking about John the Baptist. Who was John? He was not one of the twelve disciples.
Rather, John the Baptist had his own disciples. But when Jesus arrived, he would point his
followers to Jesus. John the Baptist wore camel hair, which was not a fashion statement at the
time. He was poor and lived in the woods. Most considered him weird. He at locusts and wild
honey, which means his sustenance was bugs and sugar. John the Baptist was not mainstream.
As a cousin of Jesus, they grew up together. But John the Baptist did not know Jesus as the
Messiah until the Holy Spirit revealed it to him in adulthood. He was the first prophet after four
hundred years of silence between the Old and New Testaments. What did he preach?
Repentance. He pleaded with people to turn from their sins and turn back to God.
How John the Baptist got his name is a fascinating part of the Christmas story. His father,
Zechariah, was a priest. An angel visited him and said he would have a son. Zechariah doubts
this announcement because he and his wife, Elizabeth, are elderly. God rebukes Zechariah for
his disbelief and causes him to be deaf and mute.
Elizabeth miraculously has a son, just as the angel said. Elizabeth happens to be Mary’s cousin,
who is pregnant with Jesus at about the same time. When Elizabeth’s son is born, she and
Zechariah follow the religious law of the time. The custom was to reveal the child’s name at the
circumcision ceremony, where the child is dedicated in the temple.
The family is pious, so everyone is present for this religious ritual. The entire family expected
the baby to be named after his father, Zechariah, which was a common practice. But Elizabeth
reveals a shocker: “His name is John.”
The family responds, “John?! That’s not even a family name.” They rush to Zechariah, who
confirms the name by writing on a wooden tablet. He obeys God’s command in naming his son.
At that moment, Zechariah’s ability to speak returns. What does he do first? Praise God!
God had ended the judgment against Zechariah. Silence had lifted. John the Baptist would then
prophecy after 400 years of silence. God ended the silence. The Messiah had arrived.
A few years later, John the Baptist proclaimed the arrival of Jesus. John created waves by
baptizing repentant people. People were coming to him to confess their sins. The guy with bugs
in his teeth is getting everyone’s attention. What was he doing? Pointing people to Jesus. God
named John, and John would profess the name of Jesus to everyone.