When Gabriel told Zacharias that he and his wife would have a son, and that the son would be John the Baptist, I find Zacharias’ response humorous. We are told that he was a righteous man (Luke 1:6). It is clear that he and his wife were looking for the coming Christ. As such, they believed many incredible promises God had given.
They believed they had eternal life because of the coming Christ. They believed in the coming eternal kingdom that the King would bring. They believed in the resurrection of the dead. They believed that the power of mighty Rome was temporary and that one day the tiny insignificant nation of which they were a part would be the center of the Christ’s kingdom. They also believed that it was worthwhile to live righteously, even though they were under the power of Rome. They believed that God would bless such a life, even if the world thought it was futile.
They also believed that one day God would send forth Elijah, a prophet who would pave the way for the coming King (1:17). Zacharias also believed in angels when he saw the one in the temple who brought the good news of a soon-to-be-born son.
In summary, Zacharias was a man who believed many amazing promises given by the Lord in His Word. He obviously was convinced that God’s power could accomplish what He had promised.
But here is where the humor comes into play. Even though Zacharias was convinced that all these things spoken by God were true, there was one thing he didn’t believe. He knew Elijah was coming, but when the angel told him that this Elijah would be his son, Zacharias did not believe it. Specifically, he did not believe Elisabeth and he could have a child. Zacharias pointed out to Gabriel—as if the angel did not know—that he and Elisabeth were getting on up in years. They had tried to have a child for a long time, and Zacharias couldn’t see it happening now. He was willing to consider it, however, but would need some kind of proof that God could pull it off. Evidently, he wanted a sign of some kind to convince him (1:18).
This is funny because Zacharias believed so many things God had said that were much more difficult than he and Elisabeth having a child in their old age. When you consider, for example, that Zacharias believed God would raise the dead, having a child would seem like a fairly small thing in comparison. If Zacharias were going to refuse to believe something God had said, you’d think he would have picked one of the more difficult things. He could have picked a big thing.
I find Zacharias’ reaction encouraging. It shows me that even people who are pleasing to the Lord have feet of clay. He was a righteous servant of the Lord and was given the honor of being the father of the greatest prophet in Israel’s history until Christ came. Yet, like all of us, he had times when he struggled.
How many of us see ourselves in Zacharias’ lack of faith? As believers, we believe Christ has given us eternal life. We believe He will make a new heaven and new earth. We believe He will raise our bodies from the grave if we die before He comes. We believe He will give us eternal rewards for our faithfulness.
But then we read in His Word promises that seem less grand by comparison. If we could focus on one of those promises, we might choose what the Lord says in Matt 6:31-32. He tells us not to worry about the future–specifically about what our economic situation might be. Our Father knows what we need. But how many of us are convinced that is true? How many of us worry about what goes on in our culture and in our economy and the impact that will have on our 401K or our children’s future? Simply put, we don’t believe what the Lord says.
We can look at Zacharias and wonder why he was such a knucklehead. How could he have asked Gabriel to prove to him what God had said about a baby? We might even be tempted to point a finger at him and laugh at how inconsistent he was.
But when we do, as the old saying reminds us: three fingers are pointing at ourselves.