Luke 1 is a very long chapter. Sometimes I get the impression there are books in the Bible shorter than this chapter!
It may be long, but it’s not boring. On the contrary this is a gripping narrative providing the context of the arrival of the letter’s main character. It’s a brilliant prelude. So much can be garnered from reading this chapter that sets the stage for key themes in the rest of the book.
Four characters feature strongly in this prelude – Zechariah, Elizabeth, Gabriel and Mary. On this reading I am quite taken with the journey of Zechariah. This journey starts with an old man who has been upright in character. Evidently part of the levitical priesthood, he is the position to have his round of serving in the temple. As well as that, though, he carries the burden of no succession. His wife is unable to conceive, that brings shame to them, but his character remains unbowed. He stays with his wife and remains committed to his priestly duties.
Along comes this encounter with Gabriel. As with other men before him, despite the brilliant news he is given from God’s messenger all Zechariah has is doubt. Imagine being told you will come into a lot of money, prestige and influence. Imagine being told that it will happen from a very reliable source. Imagine that and think of what it would take to hear that and doubt it. Zechariah is not unreasonable in his doubt. Centuries earlier Sarah laughed at the thought of Abraham being able to impregnate her seeing as though they were both well past it. At this advanced stage in his life as well as that of his wife, it’s understandable that Zechariah would question it.
What’s even more intriguing, though, is that even though Gabriel renders him mute because of his doubt, Zechariah finishes his temple duties and returns home to his wife and fulfils his call to impregnate his wife – all without a word coming from his lips. That’s incredible – the angelic encounter might have left him dumbstruck, but it didn’t leave him lacking in faith any more.
It’s good to know that even when the most upright folks can doubt. It’s also good to know that God can use the doubt as the platform to prove again that what appears impossible to man is more than possible for Him.
Zechariah’s journey sees him get used to life without talking for the nine months of the miraculous work in the womb of his beloved Elizabeth. She will do the talking. The talk of praise when Mary shows up and crucially the talk of letting the people know the name of the child she delivered.
Zechariah’s journey in Luke ends with prophecy – reinforcing the word of delight given to him by Gabriel. Nine months in the making Zechariah opens his mouth at last to praise God and bless his son. Uttering a blessing that inscribed the purposes of God on the life of this precious baby.
I am grateful to God for Luke diligently researching and recording this not just for the sake of Theophilus, but as a result for the sake of us thousands of years later. Recording it so we can be sure of what we believe. Recording it so I can be inspired by Zechariah’s Journey.
For His Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden