On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”
They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”
Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.”
- Luke 1:59-62
Elizabeth, as a woman in the first century, had virtually no rights. There is first century documentation that she could literally be divorced for burning Zechariah’s toast. She could not inherit property. Again, as a woman, she was not permitted to be educated. In the relationship, Zechariah had all the privilege.
But even though he had the privilege, Zechariah comes late to the naming party. Sure, he’s probably present - but God had given Zechariah the strange gift of losing his voice for the past 9 months, which enabled Elizabeth to speak first. So for one of the first times, no doubt, Zechariah follows her lead.
And yet, it’s Elizabeth who named her son, and it’s Zechariah who ends up pushing against public pressing in order to agree with her. Elizabeth herself is simple speaking the name that God had said to give to the baby (see Luke 1:12) - so in that sense, Zechariah is simply agreeing with God’s word spoken through Elizabeth.
Often it is very hard for those of us with more privilege, like Zechariah, to agree with those with less privilege, like Elizabeth, even when they are speaking what God had told them to.
How good are you at listening to the story of others, especially those who are different than you or who have less privilege than you? How good are you at hearing the truth spoke by those on the margin?
Is there someone you could take to coffee or beer this week and listen to them? (Or is there a person from your family that you’ll see this week due to Thanksgiving - perhaps seek them out to listen well to them).