Episode #63 - "God Interrupts” Luke 1: 5-25
Introductory Image - Consider the greatest honor that has been bestowed upon you in the workplace, community, or church.
Moving Beyond the Image - In the time that Jesus was born, there were several synagogues, but there was only one Temple. The Temple had several levels of entry and the closer you walked to the center, the fewer that could proceed. Only a select few would be given the honor of participating in the worship leadership.
Today, a man named Zechariah got the chance to walk into a place few ever would, to practice the faith that he treasured. He thought that would be the most important thing he would ever do, but God interrupted.
Scripture passage - Luke 1: 5-25 - Common English Bible
5 During the rule of King Herod of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah. His wife Elizabeth was a descendant of Aaron. 6 They were both righteous before God, blameless in their observance of all the Lord’s commandments and regulations.
7 They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to become pregnant and they both were very old. 8 One day Zechariah was serving as a priest before God because his priestly division was on duty. 9 Following the customs of priestly service, he was chosen by lottery to go into the Lord’s sanctuary and burn incense. 10 All the people who gathered to worship were praying outside during this hour of incense offering.
11 An angel from the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw the angel, he was startled and overcome with fear.
13 The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah. Your prayers have been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will give birth to your son and you must name him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many people will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the Lord’s eyes. He must not drink wine and liquor. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before his birth. 16 He will bring many Israelites back to the Lord their God. 17 He will go forth before the Lord, equipped with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will turn the hearts of fathers[a] back to their children, and he will turn the disobedient to righteous patterns of thinking. He will make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure of this? My wife and I are very old.”
19 The angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in God’s presence. I was sent to speak to you and to bring this good news to you. 20 Know this: What I have spoken will come true at the proper time. But because you didn’t believe, you will remain silent, unable to speak until the day when these things happen.”
21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they wondered why he was in the sanctuary for such a long time. 22 When he came out, he was unable to speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he gestured to them and couldn’t speak. 23 When he completed the days of his priestly service, he returned home. 24 Afterward, his wife Elizabeth became pregnant. She kept to herself for five months, saying, 25 “This is the Lord’s doing. He has shown his favor to me by removing my disgrace among other people.”
Three Points of Discussion
Quote #1 - The priests were divided into 24 groups, and each served twice a year, for a week at a time in the Temple. This honor normally came only once in a lifetime. At this high moment-the hour of the sacrifice, the pinnacle of Zechariah’s life of priestly service, while all the multitude of the people were praying outside, waiting for Zechariah to emerge from the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared on the right side of the altar. Leander Keck - pg 45-46, The New Interpreter’s Bible--Matthew, Volume 9. Abingdon Press, Nashville, TN
Questions for Discussion: Some of our most vivid dreams involve enormous moments and whether or not we are prepared. Zechariah found himself in such a place and everyone was waiting outside. What do you imagine he thought when he was already in an elevated state of mind?
Quote #2 - The intrusion of God into the mundane interrupts and brings to an end even the sacred ceremonies of worship. We are not told whether Zechariah had burned the incense; all that matters from this point on is his response to the Lord’s charge to him. - Leander Keck - pg 46, The New Interpreter’s Bible--Matthew, Volume 9. Abingdon Press, Nashville, TN
Questions for Discussion: The angel asked a very holy man, performing a very holy act, in the holy place to respond to God’s request. Jesus would later ask fisherman out on the lake, tax collectors at their booths, and very ill people on the edge of town to respond as well. What does diversity tell us about the call of God upon humanity? Might that call interrupt something we are currently working on and what might we do?
Quote #3 - Both continuity and surprise characterize the pattern of God’s redemptive work. The annunciation is given in the Temple, at the hour of the burning of incense, to a priest the husband of one of the daughters of Aaron. In this new thing, that God was about to do, God was not abandoning Israel. - Leander Keck - pg 48, The New Interpreter’s Bible--Matthew, Volume 9. Abingdon Press, Nashville, TN
Questions for Discussion: What does the first child think when the second child is born? What do both the first child and the second child think when a third is born? What do the parents actually think about all three? When have you seen people feel slighted in their position, and how did they react? How is that connected to the people of Israel and the people that would be drawn to John the Baptist and Jesus? How can we actually convince others that God’s love is bigger than ours?
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