This Sunday in The Gospel Project for Kids, our journey took us to the beginning of John the Baptist’s ministry, specifically his birth. John is called the forerunner of the Savior. The term refers to someone who would literally run before a king, heralding his coming. At the end of the Old Testament, God spoke these words to His people: “Look, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome Day of the Lord comes” (Mal. 4:5). Then a period of silence began. For 400 years, God did not speak to the Jewish people as He had done through the prophets.
Luke described Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, as descendants of Aaron. They both loved God and lived in obedience of His commandments. But they were childless. Elizabeth was barren, and by that time, they were both old. Zechariah the priest was serving in the temple during the reign of Herod the Great when Gabriel, an angel of the Lord, appeared. Gabriel said, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John.”
The name John means “the Lord is gracious.” He certainly is. The foretelling of John’s birth by the angel Gabriel marked the coming of the end of God’s silence. Compare Malachi 4:5-6 to Luke 1:16-17. God had big plans for the baby who wasn’t even born yet. God sent John to be the last prophet who would tell people about the coming Savior. John’s job was to remind the people what God had said in the past and to get the people ready to meet Jesus.