Priestly "Faith," God's Grace
The promise has been laid out. John is going to be a great man who will prepare the way for Messiah … and Zechariah has the honor of being his father – even in his old age! Surely a godly man would jump at such an opportunity, this golden ‘temple moment.’
Read Luke 1.18-25
Maybe it’s unfair to say Zechariah didn’t jump at the opportunity, but there’s obviously some doubt. It’s clear that position (being a priest) doesn’t hold the corner on being filled with faith – a point that will be emphasized when Mary’s angelic encounter serves as a contrast.
Nonetheless, he gets the sign he asks for. He can’t speak. It probably isn’t funny for Zechariah, and it probably wasn’t humorous in that culture, but it strikes me as pretty funny today. He asked for a sign from a lack of faith (I’m not assuming I’d do better, by the way!) and he gets it – it’s a sign of gentle rebuke, however, instead of handwriting on the wall or something outstanding. That makes me smile.
One of the possible reasons the rebuke of silence was given was so the message of John’s birth, and of the coming Messiah, would not get out too soon. Jesus often attempted to restrain those He had healed from talking so this is a possibility.
The story turns from being difficult for Zechariah and Elizabeth to beautiful, however. She becomes pregnant. Her cultural shame has lifted. And most importantly, God is at work.
I don’t know that we can blame Zechariah, but we can learn from him. He was caught off-guard when God stepped in and revealed His plan. He didn’t know how to respond. Maybe that’s not right. He knew how to respond; he just didn’t think it possible.
Where’s your faith? How will you respond if God comes in with a change of plans that seems impossible? Will you trust Him or will doubt lead to a missed opportunity? Are you in the middle of a ‘temple moment’? How will you respond?