The father of John the Baptist usually gets only snarky reviews because he dared to ask God for a sign besides hearing from the Archangel Gabriel standing right in front of him.
- He probably only got to offer incense in the Temple at evening prayer 1-3 times during his entire life because there were 8,000 priests in Israel at that time. So just being there was special and he was nervous.
- The angel appeared to the right of the Altar of Incense and terrified him. Angels are spirit only, but can appear in the form of mankind when necessary – usually a normal man, but something made Zechariah aware that he was more than a man. Hence, the terror.
- Gabriel said that his prayers for progeny will be answered, but after 35 years or so of praying, Zechariah could hardly believe his ears. No wonder he had a hard time accepting the good news.
- The promised son was ordered to be a Nazarite from birth (Numbers 6:1-21) or one who lives apart, as in holy or set apart to God. He would not be the usual son who would bring forth cherubic grandchildren to delight his father and mother.
- In contrast, the Virgin Mary was fifteen or so. It’s relatively easy to believe amazing things at 15. No wonder she was more interested in how things would happen rather than whether or not they would.
God’s “anger” lasts only for a moment and it is remedial, not punitive – more like a football coach than an angry tyrant. Hence, at the end of the corrective period, Zechariah composed the glorious canticle in Luke 1: 67-79 which the Church prays again every morning in morning prayer.
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel;
he has come to his people and set them free.
He has raised up for us a mighty savior,
born of the house of his servant David.
Through his holy prophets he promised of old
that he would save us from our enemies,
from the hands of all who hate us.
He promised to show mercy to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant.
This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
to set us free from the hands of our enemies,
free to worship him without fear,
holy and righteous in his sight
all the days of our life.
You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way,
to give his people knowledge of salvation
by the forgiveness of their sins.
In the tender compassion of our God
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.