But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. – Luke 1:13 NIV
Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. – Luke 1:18-19 NIV
Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth were old and childless. One day, while Zechariah was serving as a priest, Gabriel appeared to him, announcing the answer to his prayer for a child. I find Zechariah’s response to this announcement somewhat humorous, although also convicting.
I don’t know whether Zechariah was still praying for a child, or if he had given up hope. But when an angel from heaven came to him and announced that his prayer would be answered, Zechariah responded in doubt. Why did he doubt? Likely because his prayer had been so long unanswered, and he was so old, that he had given up hope. And not even the presence of an angel bearing unexpectedly good news was enough to reawaken hope.
I find Gabriel’s response to Zechariah to be somewhat humorous. In particular, it seems like Gabriel is offended that Zechariah doesn’t believe him. After all, his response seems to be on the order of “Don’t you know who I am? I am Gabriel. And I hang out with God, who sent me to give you this good news.”
I wonder how surprised I would be if Gabriel appeared to me, bringing an answer to my prayer. Clearly, his presence would be shocking. But would I doubt his message, like Zechariah did? Or would I respond more like Mary did later on in this chapter? Do I really believe that God hears and responds to my prayer? Or is my prayer only wishful hoping; not really expecting a response?