Zachariah Doubts: Luke 1:18-25
And Zachariah said to the angel, “How can I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in her days.”
In reply, the angel said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and bring this good news. Now see! Because you did not believe in my words, you will become mute and will be unable to speak until that day when these things happen, which will be fulfilled in their due time!”
Now the people were expecting Zachariah, and they were wondering about his delay in the sanctuary. But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. And he was beckoning to them, and he remained mute.
As soon as his time of service was complete, he returned to his home. And after this his wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant and hid herself for five months, saying, “Thus the Lord has done for me when he looked upon me: He took away my shame among the people.”
There are two particularly notable things in this passage. The first is Luke’s first jab at the religious establishment. Zachariah, Luke has already told us, is a priest who is “righteous” and “above reproach” (1:6). Yet Zechariah still doubts that God can and will act in this world. We’ll see a contrast with Mary, who accepts what the angel tells her with little argument. And which is the greater miracle: that an old woman should become pregnant (Sarah did!), or that a woman should become pregnant without the participation of a man? Yet Zachariah, the best representative of the temple structure, doubts the smaller miracle, while Mary, an unwed and uneducated young woman, trusts God to do even that which seems biologically impossible.
This is one of the first portrayals of the Kingdom: it is not for the educated elite. It asks, rather, for the childlike trust of a peasant.
Secondly, Elizabeth’s proclamation in 1:25 doesn’t mention the pregnancy of an old woman at all. For her, the miracle is instead that God removed her shame. Again, this heralds the Kingdom, where no one has fallen to far to be redeemed. What’s important is not that Zachariah and Elizabeth got what they wanted, namely a child. What’s important is the removal of their shame, for the Kingdom is a place where all is healed (not merely where everyone gets what they want).