Am I the only one that has read the beginning of the Christmas story in Luke and wondered why Zechariah was treated so unfairly? Why was his mouth closed up when he questioned the birth of John the Baptist and Mary’s was not when she asked about Jesus’ conception? I’ve wondered many times why Mary’s response was okay and Zechariah’s was not.
Since I often have difficulty saying things that I regret later I finally asked God why? What is the difference here? Why was the question Zechariah asked not okay and Mary’s was? Both of them are asking valid questions because both of them didn’t understand how the birth of John the Baptist or Jesus would be possible. So, what is the difference? Why was one’s mouth closed up and the other’s was not?
Is God just a militant leader that expects a salute and a “yes sir” or else? Thankfully He is not, which was made very clear in the angel’s response to Mary’s question. The difference is in how it is said and the underlying belief behind it. Zechariah says, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.” (Luke 1:18) When he says “how can I be sure” we know that he does not believe and wants proof. Mary says, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” (Luke 1:34) Mary is an intelligent woman and she is just wondering how it will occur (which God is okay with by the way, He loves our questions!). She is satisfied with the response and believes. Zechariah does not believe, he wants proof before he will believe. Unfortunately for him he did get his miraculous sign when he was unable to speak!
After the birth of John the baptist when Zechariah was asked what the baby’s name should be “He motioned for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s surprise he wrote, ‘His name is John.’ Instantly Zechariah could speak again, and he began praising God.” (Luke 1:63-64) . When Zechariah fell in line with God’s plan he was set free from his bondage. When he finally put down his stubborn unbelief and had faith he was able to enjoy God’s blessing on his life. Not only that, so were all of his neighbors and God’s glory was spread throughout the region!
Elizabeth (John the Baptists mother) said to Mary when she greets her for the first time during both of their pregnancies, “You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.” (Luke 1:45) . The Lord truly wants to bless us and it is our unbelief that is holding us back.
I will admit I struggle with this a lot in my own life. Mostly in areas concerning my own free will. Areas like saying things I regret, acting unkindly and just not being a good representation of Christ in all of my actions. So, when I ask Him for help with this and other areas I struggle in (like compulsive overeating) I cry out the prayer of the father who’s daughter is dying “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). God wants us to believe so that He is able to help us in our area of need. He is okay with questions and with us admitting our need for more faith. We don’t need to to fear that He will shut up our mouths if we do something he doesn’t like. He understands our hearts and underlying motives. As long as we come to Him with an open heart, He will help us. We need only the faith of a mustard see and He will move mountains!
“You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” (Matthew 17:20)