Intro to the Book of Luke
In the first four verses of Luke’s gospel we see the heart of God towards people who have heard some things about Him, but have not heard all the things they need to hear. Luke wanted to write to his friend Theophilus and build up his faith. He did this by writing a letter to him and telling him the whole story of Jesus from his point-of-view. We know that Luke telling Theophilus about Jesus’ life would build up his faith because faith comes by hearing the Word of God over and over again. Luke trusted his gut and wrote to Theophilus because he felt the need to in his heart.
God spoke His Word to humans so we would write it down, and He wanted us to write it down so we could speak it out ourselves later. This is what preachers of the Gospel do when they speak and proclaim the Word of God. This is what Bible teachers do when they read and explain the Word of God. This was what Luke did with his letter to his friend: showed God’s heart by sharing God’s Word.
He tells Theophilus that the things he had heard from others about Jesus was true. He says that he was an eyewitness to what God did through Jesus, and begins with the story of John the Baptist’s miraculous birth.
Start of the Story
There was a priest named Zacharias and his job was to burn incense in the Temple to purify it. There was a crowd of people waiting outside the temple to come in and pray while Zach purified the temple. God sent his angel Gabriel to visit Zach while he was alone in the temple. Gabriel told Zach that he and his wife would have a son and name him John. He told Zach that John would be used to prepare God’s people for the Lord’s coming. John was “going to be great in the sight of the Lord, and would be filled with the Holy Spirit from birth” and would turn many people back to God.
Zacharias, being a priest, would have known that the last time God visited and spoke to His people He said that He would send a messenger to “clear the way ahead” of Him. Zach was a little shocked when the angel referenced this scripture in regards to his son because it had been four hundred years since that prophecy was spoken, and now it’s going to be fulfilled because he prayed and asked God for a son and blessings on his people? I’m sure it sounded crazy even though it was coming from a real-life angel of God.
Zacharias did not respond the way we all like to think we would have in his shoes. He heard that God had a plan for “joy and gladness” for him and his family, but God’s Word to him was not enough. Gabriel told Zach about the plan God had for him and his son, but Zach responded with doubt and unbelief. He said “Why should I believe this?”, because he and his wife were too old to have kids.
Don’t be like Zach
We must be sure to not be like Zach when we hear God’s Word.
I’m sure Gabriel rolled his eyes when he said he was sent to bring him good news, and that his unbelief would not hinder God’s plan. Gabriel said that Zacharias would not be able to speak at all until John was born. This kept him from speaking negatively about God’s promise.
If we want our prayers answered, we must choose to reinforce them with faithful beliefs and confession of God’s Word instead of praying and then undermining our prayers with negative thoughts and words. For example, let’s say a mother is praying for a son who is not living a Godly lifestyle and asks God for a breakthrough for him. When she’s done praying, she goes to lunch with some friends and says several times that she’s afraid that her son will never change. This kind of negative confession weakens prayer because it is not based on faith that God will respect and answer. When you pray, once you have laid hold of the answer though faith, make sure your words throughout the day are in agreement with what you’ve asked God to do. When people ask you questions that you could answer in a negative way, answer them with a positive confession of God’s Word instead. This will help your faith stay strong regarding the prayer your prayed.
When the angel left him and he left the Temple, people knew he had been visited by God and kept their eye on him. Then his wife, Elisabeth, turned up pregnant after all.
Gabriel visits Mary
Six months into Elisabeth’s pregnancy, Gabriel visited Mary in Nazareth. Gabriel told Mary that she would give birth to a son named Jesus and He would be the Son of God with a kingdom that would last forever. Though she hesitated, Gabriel convinced her to have faith. When she visits her cousin Elizabeth, God’s Word to her is confirmed. Elisabeth calls Mary blessed because she “believed that the Lord would keep his promise” to her. We would be so blessed if we also believe that He keeps His promises. Believing this is how He blesses us.
Mary stays with Elisabeth for some time, and in that time confidence and faith grows in both of them. After she leaves, Elisabeth gives birth to John and Zacharias’ prophetic celebration of what God had done left everyone around wondering just what God would do in John’s life.
Gabriel’s response to Zach’s doubt was to shut his mouth, but he responded to Mary by preaching to her about her cousin’s miracle pregnancy to build up her faith. Why did he treat them different if they both “questioned God”?
When Gabriel greeted Mary, she responded better than Zacharias did. Though she was shocked, she didn’t ask why she should believe, but rather how this could come to pass. She was a virgin, so she had no way to conceive. The desire to understand how something works is not the same as being doubtful. Mary wanted to know if she’d missed a step or if maybe the angel was in the wrong place, but Zacharias asked why he should even believe.
Zach said, “Give me a sign.” Mary said, “I’ve never had sex.”
Zach put it on God: “You prove it to me.” Mary took responsibility: “I must’ve missed something – I don’t qualify.”
It might sound funny, but the angel’s response to Mary’s question reveals her tone: questioning, not doubting. Just because you have questions about the way the Kingdom of God works and the cause-and-effect aspects of the things of God does not mean that you are a bad person.
Neither response is perfect. The perfect response is what Mary ended up saying in verse 38: “bring it on.” Here’s the thing: God could not perform His perfect will with Zacharias’ doubtful heart, but Mary’s hesitation didn’t not hinder Him.
Why did God treat Zacharias and Mary different if they both questioned Him? Because Zach did not believe, but Mary simply did not understand. Mary’s lack of understanding was overcome by her faith after the angel told her about God would do for her and what God was doing in her cousin’s life.
You might not understand everything when it comes to the thing’s of God, but that does not mean you have to doubt God.
Be honest with God when you have questions and guard your heart because when we doubt, God doesn’t shut us up. We can still hurt our prayers with our doubtful words.