Zechariah — the Priestly Prophet

Jerusalem - birth of st. John the Baptist scene on windowpane in st. George a church

There was a period of prophetic silence in Israel. The major prophets had come before the Exile and some of the minor prophets came soon after the exile. Israel was crumbling. It was an occupied territory, but the prophets were as silent as Zechariah.

During Zechariah’s silence, he had time to ponder Gabriel’s message to him, his doubt and his own son’s destiny.  Then he witnessed but could not comment upon the wonder of the Visitation.  He pondered the meaning of Mary’s pregnancy.  When the time came for him to confirm Gabriel’s message by affirming that the child’s name was John, it was like a dam broke and the words bottled up inside him spewed forth.

His prophecy is believed to be in two parts. The first was directed at Mary, who had surely stayed for the birth, and Jesus within her womb. Picture him looking at her almost trembling as he says,

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people,

and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David,

as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,

that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all who hate us;

to perform the mercy promised to our fathers,

and to remember his holy covenant,

the oath which he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we,

being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear,

in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life.

Zechariah was excited he knew that the promised Messiah was here within that womb.  The ages of waiting for the promised one was over.  Israel wasn’t forgotten in its misery.  Then Zechariah looked down at the child in his arms.

And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;

for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,

to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins,

through the tender mercy of our God,

when the day shall dawn upon us from on high to give light to those who sit in

darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

In the tradition of Samuel and Jeremiah, Israel had a priestly-prophet again. You may think that Zechariah was given the gift of prophecy because he was a godly man, but there was another priest-prophet who was anything but godly.  John tells us that prophecy was given him because he was the high priest.

But one of them, Caiaphas, who was the high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all; you do not understand that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish.”  He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.

God worked through his priests even the ones who were out to destroy Jesus to accomplish the plan of salvation. These men chose of their own free will to do evil, but God used their choices to accomplish His good.


Referenced scriptures: Luke 1:67-79, John 11:49-52

#trcot #tcot #Zechariah #John the Baptist




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