When Joey, our oldest son, was five years old we signed him up for an instructional soccer league. At one of Joey's first practices, the coach broke the large group of boys and girls into teams. Joey quickly demonstrated a knack for dribbling a soccer ball that most of the other kids didn't seem to have yet. Before long Joey was scoring goals almost at will. Even placing him on defense didn't slow him down as he ended up with seven goals. One of the father's observing this, commented to me about Joey saying, "He's intense!" The thought crossed my mind that Joey might be special. This plays out in the Gospel this week as well.
When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her. When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said in reply, "No. He will be called John." But they answered her, "There is no one among your relatives who has this name." So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called. He asked for a tablet and wrote, "John is his name," and all were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God. Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, "What, then, will this child be?" For surely the hand of the Lord was with him. The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel. Luke 1:57-66, 80
Some context is important here. Elizabeth was barren and both (she and Zechariah her husband) were advanced in years, so her pregnancy was special. Additionally, the naming of the baby was also unusual. The expectation to give children the "family" name was a powerful one in biblical times. No one would have blinked an eye if Elizabeth's son had been named after his father, Zechariah. This progression of events pointed to something special about baby John as everyone wondered, "What, then, will this child be?"
Later in Luke's Gospel, as John has actually faded from the scene, Jesus makes a profound statement about him. "I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John..." Elizabeth and Zechariah's little John became the forerunner of Jesus, the Christ. He really was special but as Jesus followed up this pronouncement about John He said, "yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he." In other words, special in God's eyes is very different from that of the world.
Joey was a special soccer player when he was young. But he never even played varsity soccer in high school. "What, then, will this child be?" Joey's natural intensity and passion have made him an exceptional 8th-grade math teacher. He also revived his school's soccer program in just a couple of short years. He impacts the lives of impressionable, underprivileged kids in ways he probably will never know. John the Baptist became the person God had created him to be. I love knowing that Joey is doing the same. I wonder about how well I'm doing on the same account. How about you?