The difference between Mary and Zechariah (Why was Zechariah punished?)
In the first chapter of Luke, two phenomenal visitations by the angel Gabriel are recorded. In the first visitation, Gabriel visits Zechariah, who had come of age, and announces him that his wife Elizabeth, who had also come of age, will be pregnant. In response to the announcement, Zechariah questions the possibility of such miracle by:
1. Requesting a proof (thus indirectly calling God a liar or unreliable)
2.By establishing realistic facts through a reminder about his and her wife age (as if God had forgotten their age)
Infuriated by Zechariah's inquiry, the angel strikes a punishment impeding Zechariah' speech abilities until his promised child will be born.
A few verses later, the same angel visits Mary, a virgin about to be wed to a man named Joseph. The angel Gabriel enters her house and announces her that she will bear a child. In response to his announcement, Mary questions the prophecy by:
1. Requesting a measure of probability of the prophecy's accomplishment (thus showing doubt).
2.By telling Gabriel that she is a virgin ( as if God forgot she was a virgin)
Instead of rebuking Mary, Gabriel goes on explaining the process through which she will be pregnant.
Many people have questioned the reason why Zechariah gets punished for his inquiry while Mary receives an explanation for hers. I will explain some of the reasons behind the difference in Gabriel's reaction. But first of all, before I carry on let me say this: ' Contrarily to what many people think,the different treatment towards Mary has nothing to do with her gender'. Nothing at all.
if you read the beginning of Luke 1:5-8, there is a clear description of Zechariah that resembles to a 'mini-Linkedin Cv':
*He was a descendant of Aaron (therefore it also means that he grew up in a priestly home).
*Zechariah and his wife had God's approval and they followed the commandments of God perfectly.
*Zechariah was a priest and based on his old age (as he self-describes), we can assume that he was a senior priest.
Zechariah, being a senior priest who grew up in a priestly home, knew the Torah, preached the Torah on Sabbath, read the Torah to others and himself, (he) should have believed the message from Gabriel (period). Since he knew the Torah, he knew the story of Abraham and his wife and he should not have doubted at all based on his KNOWLEDGE.
So it came as disconcerting to Gabriel that a senior priest who preaches the Torah, reads the Torah and manages God's affairs in the Temple, be doubting in the midst of a supernatural appearance. The severity of the judgement on Zechariah gives us a prelude of what James wrote: 'Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.' (James 3:1).
Though we are ALL called to evangelize, teaching is a different thing all together. Teaching does not even equate to exhortation or inspiration. From the scripture in James 3:1, we can deduct that 'teaching' is not for everybody. I say this because I have seen many people falling on the wrong the side of the Scriptures by teaching doctrines that were not Biblical...though you may wish to teach, be aware of this: 'teaching is a noble office BUT the judgement of the teacher will be stricter.'
Back to the text:
In Luke 1:27, the angel Gabriel is sent to a virgin woman named Mary. Luke's description of Mary does not include anything extraordinary she has accomplished. If Mary had typed her CV on Linkedin by the time of Luke 1:27, then her CV would be empty. She never did anything towards receiving an Angelic visit or a supernatural pregnancy and to even confirm that, Gabriel specifies:..You have found favor with God..' (Luke 1:30).
The proof that Mary is not knowledgeable is found in the following information:
*In Luke 1:29, the Bible says: 'Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean (NLT version). When Gabriel appears to Zechariah, though he was troubled and shaken, he did not try to figure out what the Gabriel's visit meant. Because he was knowledgeable. On the other, though in shock,Mary tries to figure out the meaning of the Gabriel's visit.Only people who are ignorant try to figure out things.
* Secondly, Mary was living in a time where illiteracy was a normal thing. Reading was reserved to the nobles, scribes and priests. It is very possible that she did not know how to read anything, let alone the Torah.
* Thirdly, Gabriel gives Mary an explanation of how she will get pregnant (verse 35) because she is not knowledgeable. On the other hand, Zechariah does not ask Gabriel how their pregnancy will occur because he (Zechariah) knew the story of Abraham. Instead Zechariah asks for a proof ( verse 18) because he did not believe.
Please study Gabriel's response to Zechariah:'The angel answered him, “I’m Gabriel! I stand in God’s presence. God sent me to tell you this good news' (Luke 1:19). His response is a reminder that we should not just stand in the presence of God for the sake of being there, but we should also be in His presence with the expectation to hear from Him and believe what He says. Zechariah is in the presence of God (ref. Luke 1:8) but he does not even believe what God says yet he was knowledgeable.
This study is a very good lesson to all of us:' as we hear more of God's Word through personal meditation, revelations, through church services, sermons, blogs on the internet...we become more knowledgeable and as a result we ought to be careful in the way we pay attention but also in the way we walk after we hear from God.