May 26, 2009

Zechariah and Mary: Two Responses to Grace

Zechariah was a Jewish priest and the husband of Elizabeth, a woman from the priestly family of Aaron. Both Zechariah and Elizabeth were blameless in observing the commandments and ordinances of God. Despite this, they were advanced in years and without children. (Luke 1:5-7).

At the temple in Jerusalem the offering of incense was one of the most solemn aspects of daily worship. This honor was determined by lot, due to the sheer number of priests. Zechariah was chosen by lot to preform the incense offering, a great privilege.

At the golden altar of incense, the angel Gabrielle announced to Zechariah that Elisabeth would give birth to a son, who he was to name John. This son would be the forerunner of the long-awaited Messiah (Luke 1:12-17). In disbelief, Zechariah asked for a sign authenticating the prophecy. The angel identified himself as the Archangel Gabriel, sent by God. Because of Zechariah's doubt he was made mute and was not able to speak until the day the prophesy was fulfilled. Consequently, when Zechariah went out to the worshipers in the temple's outer court, he was unable to say the blessing (Luke 1:18-22).

Compare this to the Virgin Mary’s response when the angel Gabrielle appeared to her during the Annunciation. Gabrielle reveals to Mary that she is too be the mother of the Anointed One. She does not express disbelief but instead asks a question. Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?" And the angel said to her in reply, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God (Luke 1:34-35).

Zechariah and Mary each respond to grace. Mary displays faith. Zechariah demands proof

1 comment :

Jeffrey Pinyan said...

I would also add that Zechariah and Elizabeth had been praying for a son (cf. Luke 1:13), and still he doubted that his prayer could be answered.