It seems like there were people everywhere in the story of John the Baptist’s birth. Crowds, throngs, groups.
When Zechariah went into the temple, a large crowd of people waited outside for him. When Elizabeth gave birth to John, all the neighbors and friends heard the news and rushed right over.
This crowd was even going to help the new parents name their son. When Elizabeth said he would be named “John,” the crowd protested, calling for a family name.
And they were all present when Zechariah endorsed the name as well and then burst into a passionate praise and prophecy when God allowed him to speak again. Lots of people around.
In contrast, Mary’s pregnancy and Jesus’ birth were relatively private.
John’s job was to prepare those crowds for the coming Messiah. He would go out among the people, calling for repentance, preparing them for Jesus’ ministry.
And we see it happening even at his birth.
The crowd heard Zechariah burst forth from his muteness with praise of God. There was no bitterness in Zechariah. Instead, Zechariah spoke powerfully to the people of God’s hand throughout the history of Israel.
As Zechariah recounted God’s power, the emphasis was on redemption. God had redeemed the people of Israel in the past – from Egyptian slavery, from exile into Babylon, “salvation from our enemies and from the clutches of those who hate us.” (Luke 1:71)
He, in a smaller way, did what his son would do in a much larger way: reminded people that God had saved them many times from enemies – and was about to accomplish the greatest rescue of all in sending the Messiah.
God’s merciful compassion was about to settle on this earth in a new and mysterious way. John would be the one to prepare the people for this perfect redemption.
And you, child, will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare His ways, to give His people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins. (Luke 1:76-77)
Tomorrow: he comes