In the previous blog, “The promise to Mary: To “keep and ponder” or to only “wonder””, we looked at how Mary dealt with God’s promises in her life: She “kept” and “pondered over” them and was a woman of faith.
But not everyone in the Bible receiving such a promise had the same reaction, or faith.
In the gospel of Luke, we read about two miraculous births. The first one is that of Jesus.
The second one was that of John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin. His father, Zechariah, also received a visit from the same angel as Mary had done but doubted the promise that he received. He said, ““How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years” (Luke 1:18). He was an older man, righteous for God and knew the law (Luke 1:6) and was performing a sacred duty in the temple when he saw the angel. But he was unable to react in the same way that the much younger Mary had done. Perhaps, one could ponder, she was less affected by religious thinking, and more open to just receive?
The words of Jesus also come to mind here: “Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved?” (Matthew 9:17).
Which is easier: To receive a divine promise of a child that will be born in one’s old age, or to be told that you would give birth to the Savior of the world, yet had never been with a man? Still, Mary’s response was the response of faith.
However, God did stay true to His promise to Zechariah. But because of Zechariah’s unbelief, he was temporarily struck with muteness (he was unable to speak). He later regained the ability.
God was faithful to His promise. But He was not, perhaps, honored in the same way in this story, because of Zechariah’s lack of faith.
Perhaps for this very reason, the name of the child would be John, which means, “The Lord has been gracious.” As we read, it was not a familiar name given in that family. Yet his mother and father made clear that this was to be his name, and the people standing around “marveled” at this (likely because it broke with their traditions; read Luke 1:59-63).
Also, John, “God has been gracious,” is a very befitting name for someone who would make way for the coming Messiah, his cousin, Jesus. The coming of Jesus from Nazareth was a transition from old things to totally new things. Like we read: “For the LAW was given through Moses, but GRACE AND TRUTH came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).
In the very moment Zechariah proclaimed his sons name, he miraculously received the ability to speak again (see verses 63-64). That was certainly grace.
You can read the full story in Luke’s gospel chapter 1:5-25 and 1:57-66 (or just the whole chapter 😊).
What can we learn from all this?
Mary was a woman of immediate faith (and a continuous one). Her response had been, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
Zechariah, on the other hand, had responded, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.” Perhaps, he had forgotten about the father of his own faith, Abraham, who had to wait until he was 100 years old before he received Isaac, the child of his promise?
We see two very different responses. Yet by God’s grace, both promises and births were brought through.
God wants our faith.
But when it wavers like with Zechariah, God is still faithful to keep what he has promises to us. He will make sure to keep His own end of the bargain and receives glory in that process (Psalm 115:1).
Perhaps, as He gives and fulfills such things in our lives, things we can’t believe or are unable to receive, at the same time, He is taking off our “religious glasses” and breaking down thoughts and mindsets in our lives that try to hinder and put a limit on what God can do. Like with Zechariah, He makes all things new.
John means “The Lord has been gracious.” Zechariah means “The Lord has remembered.”
Indeed, the Lord remembers His promises, and graciously fulfills them.
You might want to also read our article: "How can I get started reading the Bible?"
Or this article: "What do I need Jesus for?"
SCRIPTURES FOR REFERENCE:
“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:18-19).
“And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new’” (Revelation 21:5).
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2. Corinthians 5:17).
“By abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two (Jew and Gentile), so making peace…” (Ephesians 2:15).
“In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away” (Hebrews 8:13).
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
"For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:20).
"Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:3).