I like to change up my devotional routine…and this time…I have decided to travel through the Book of Luke. I always enter into my devotional time hoping to discover new things about God…about myself…and how these two entities can draw closer together. Little did I know…this would happen in chapter 1.
Before I get to that…let me point your attention to another passage later on in Luke:
“The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:47-48)
Jesus is describing here a sense of stewardship and how one should handle the responsibility that one has been given. If the master entrusts us with something…we are expected to handle it to the best of our ability.
This parable is really touching on levels of responsibility. The first hypothetical dude Jesus describes knew what he should be doing but did not do it. Therefore, he was beaten (Jesus isn’t advocating violence…simply drawing a parallel to the culture of the times). The second hypothetical dude did not know what he was supposed to do…and didn’t do it. Therefore…because this guy was uninformed…he was just slapped around a little bit.
I know we often don’t like to think that Jesus treats people differently…but I think He does. Now, let me be clear…He loves everyone (enough to die for everyone). But, when it comes to how we handle responsibility…it is different.
You may have heard it said before that God will never give you anything that you can’t handle. This may be true simply for the fact that some of us are further in our walk than others. It is much like asking if an 8 year old could be a better parent than a 30 year old (of course…I have met some 30 year olds that make me think a little harder about this one). Logic would say…the 30 year old is ready for the greater responsibility.
Now…let’s jump back to chapter 1. I want to look for a moment at the stories of Zechariah and of Mary.
Zechariah is making the offering in the Temple when the angel of the Lord appears to him. Zechariah is a little freaked out and the angel says, “Do not be afraid” and tells him that his wife (who has been barren) will have a child. This is the interchange between Zechariah and the angel to follow:
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. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.” (Luke 1:18-19)
Mary is just a simple virgin girl engaged to be married when the angel appears to her. She does not seem as terrified as Zechariah…but still…the angel says, “Do not be afraid” and proceeds to tell her that she will conceive by the Holy Spirit and have a baby. Here is her interchange:
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.” (Luke 1:34-37)
Did you notice the difference between the two? Zechariah was beaten until he could not talk (okay…that may not be true…but he was struck mute until the day his child was circumcised) because of his doubt. Mary on the other hand…who voiced the exact same argument as Zechariah (just different circumstances) got a free pass on her doubt.
There seem to be a lot of parallels on these two stories. But the one difference is in who they were. Mary was a young virgin woman…and that is really all we know about Mary at this point. Zechariah, on the other hand, was a priest. Not just a priest though. Luke takes extra effort to paint a quality picture of Zechariah and Elizabeth in the very beginning of the book:
In the time of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old. (Luke 1:5-7)
Why is this important? Well…Zechariah was a mature person in his faith. The guy was a priest! Not just a priest…but one who was righteous in the sight of God. We are not talking about a corrupt and evil ruler. We are talking about a leader in the faith and one people looked up to and followed.
Honestly…he should have known better. For Mary to have doubt when God showed up in her life…well…that was understandable. But for Zechariah…he should have showed more strength in the face of fear. Besides…his encounter with God was in the house of God…where the priest would go to be in the presence of God. Seems like a realistic place to see the angel of the Lord.
Can I fault either of them for being a little afraid? Absolutely not. I would be too. I get scared sometimes when I hear God call me to something. And, yes…sometimes I doubt. I’m not perfect…but I also know that God has called me to pastor The Grove to the best of my ability and that means being uncomfortable and afraid…well…most of the time.
I read these stories and I begin to think about the level of responsibility in my life. My responsibility with the church…with my wife…with my kids. They are heavy responsibilities…and I believe God expects a lot of me. Not because I am awesome (which I am) but because God has entrusted me with much. And…
…from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.
What are your thoughts? What have you been entrusted with that carries great responsibility?