Luke 1:5-25 Speechless.
Luke proceeds to anchor his account of the person and work of Christ in history (v. 5a Cf. Mt. 2:1). The notation of Zacharias being of the division of Abijah, would hearken back to the days of Nehemiah (12:4, 17 Cf. I Chron. 24:10). He and Elizabeth are described as “righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.” (v. 6). We know from scripture that this does not mean that they were sinless, but more by way of surprise that they had not had a child, since this was regarded as a reward to the faithful (Cf. Ps. 127:3-5). Hence Luke’s note in verse seven. Like Abraham and Sarah, they were “well advanced in years.” (v. 7 Cf. Gen. 17:17-22)
As it happened, the lot fell to Zacharias to serve in the Holy Place (vv. 8-9 Cf. Ex. 30:7-8; Lev. 16:17), at which time the people prayed outside (v. 10). We are told that he was troubled and fear came upon him when an angel appeared by the altar of incense (vv. 11-12). Incense was symbolic of the prayers of his people (Rev. 5:8). He must have wondered about the prayers he was offering. It seems clear that one of those prayers, perhaps the chief, was that he and Elizabeth might have a child, for the angel says, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.” (v. 13) John’s name means, “the Lord is gracious.”
The angel assures Zacharias that he and Elizabeth would “have joy and gladness,” and many would rejoice at John’s birth (v. 14). He would be great in God’s sight, and it would appear that he was destined for the life of a Nazarite (v. 15 Cf. Nu. 6:3). He would be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb and destined for a unique task and role in history, much like Elijah of old (vv. 16-17 Cf. Mt. 11:14). This was in fulfillment of the prophetic word of Malachi (4:5-6), the closing words of the old covenant scriptures. His message would be that spoken of by the prophet Isaiah (Cf. 1:76; Mt. 3:3; Is. 40:3).
The fact of their ages led to Zacharias’ question about them having a child. Abraham and Sarah laughed when they were in a similar situation (v. 18 Cf. Gen. 17:17; 18:12). It appears that the angel Gabriel took Zacharias’ question as one of some doubt. Zacharias seems to have been punished with silence until the time of fulfillment (vv. 20-22). Gabriel was an angel of some prominence. Daniel records that he was the one who was commanded by the heavenly council to explain the vision which he had received to him (8:16-27). This would suggest that Zacharias was indeed standing in the very council chamber of the glory-presence in heaven.
It seems to be no coincidence that it was Gabriel who revealed to Daniel the meaning of the vision of the 70 weeks, for it was this very vision that was now finding fulfillment in the incredible events of which Zacharias and his son John would be a part (9:21-27). He would go on to also announce Jesus’ birth (Lk. 1:26-38). It is Luke who describes the future destruction of Jerusalem which occurred in 70 AD, as “the days of vengeance” in terms of the fulfillment of Daniel 9:27 and the abominations that makes desolate, as Jerusalem being trampled by the Gentiles (Lk. 21:20-24). The Messiah was coming, and John would precede Him as His messenger to prepare the way.