Life is not always as it seems. Nor is faith for that matter. What seems so “perfect” on the outside is not necessarily indicative of the inside. And vice versa. What is seen does not always reflect the unseen. Case in point being the first chapter in Luke.
At first glance, Zechariah seems to be the poster boy of perfect faith. It says in Luke 1:5-6 that he was a priest, upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly. Wow! One would expect much from the faith of a man such as this. Yet, the unexpected and the unexplainable can rattle the faith of the best of us and signal flaws we never knew were there.
This is exactly where we find Zechariah, as he was on duty in the temple of God burning incense, when suddenly the angel Gabriel appeared before him. The angel announced that Zechariah and his barren wife Elizabeth were finally going to be parents of a son! God had heard his prayer and granted their heart’s desire…..and then some!
They were to be the parents of the long prophesied man who was to prepare the way for the coming Lord (Isaiah 40:3-5, Malachi4-5-6). As the angel Gabriel explained the magnitude of the role they were to play in God’s redemptive plan, questions flooded Zechariah’s mind. But these were not inconsequential deliberations. They revealed flaws in the faith of a man who should have known better than to utter the doubtful “how”.
This response would not seem so surprising , even shocking, except for the contrasting response of a young, teenage girl in the very same chapter, experiencing much the same scenario with the angel Gabriel . In Luke 1:28-33, he appears to Mary announcing she is to give birth to a son, Jesus, and He will be the Son of the Most High, and will given the throne of David. This is equally unlikely a normal possibility as Zechariah and his barren wife conceiving in their old age because Mary was a virgin at the time. But Mary responded quite differently, even though she uttered the very same word as Zechariah. “How”?
What makes such a contrasting difference between the older religious expert and the young inexperienced girl is the way each question was asked. They both asked “how”, but in completely opposite context. Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years?” while Mary asked, “How will this be since I am a virgin?”.
In essence, Zechariah asked in unbelief while Mary asked in faith! He asked doubting. She asked believing. Oh what a difference ! Both were perplexed at the circumstances and probabilities, but only she trusted beyond what she could see and explain.
We know one asked diffently than the other because Zechariah was rebuked by Gabriel and silenced for his unbelief, unable to utter a word till his wife gave birth. The angel gave to one judgement, and to the other, an explanation. What a difference of faith between the expert and the inexperienced!
May we be reminded this Christmas season, as many of us pursue the “perfect” Facebook holiday for ourselves and our families, to believe and trust God through the unexpected and unexplainable. That is what this season is really about anyway, for how unlikely and unfathomable that God Incarnate would be born in a lowly manger to save the world!
Glory be to God in the highest and on earth, peace and goodwill to all men!