************ Sermon on Luke 1:18-21 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on December 16, 2018

Luke 1:18-21
"Zechariah, An Unbelieving Priest"
Sunday School Christmas Program

I want to start with a Bible question: Who is Gabriel? Who is Gabriel?

Gabriel is one of God's mighty angels. There are thousands of angels, ten thousand times ten thousand angels who are holy and live in God's presence. Of all these good angels, the Bible tells us the name of only two of them: Michael & Gabriel. Michael & Gabriel are archangels -- that means they are super angels.

Michael is a warrior angel. He shows up when there is a battle to fight. Gabriel is a messenger angel. He shows up when there is an important message to deliver.

By the way, we also know the name of some bad angels: Abaddon, Beelzebub, and Satan. But tonight I want to talk to you boys and girls about the good angel Gabriel.

One day the Angel Gabriel was sent to Jerusalem, to the Temple, to deliver a message from God to a priest named Zechariah.

Does anyone remember what Zechariah was doing when he saw Gabriel? He was in the Temple, in the Holy Place, and was burning incense to the Lord. The fragrance and the smoke of the incense was going up just like prayers go up to God.

Gabriel said to Zechariah, "your prayer has been heard" (Lk 1:13). What was Zechariah praying for?
-a baby boy (remember they were old and had no children)
-the coming of the Messiah
-the forgiveness of sins
-the Kingdom of God
-the peace of Jerusalem

Zechariah was offering incense. Zechariah was praying. And the angel Gabriel was sent to him. Gabriel tells Zechariah that he would have a son. Gabriel tells Zechariah that his son John would prepare the way for the Messiah.

How does Zechariah know this is true and reliable and trustworthy? How does Zechariah know he can believe what the angel said to him.

The angel tells him: "I am Gabriel" (Lk 1:19). Zechariah knew about Gabriel; he recognized the name. You see, throughout the Bible, Gabriel is God's number one messenger when it comes to news about the Messiah and the Messianic Kingdom. For instance, it is Gabriel who appeared to Daniel and tells him about the coming of the Messiah and the Messianic Kingdom (Dan 8 & 9). It is Gabriel who tells Mary she would give birth to the Messiah. And, now it is Gabriel who tells Zechariah that his son John will prepare the way for the Messiah.

"I am Gabriel." So right away Zechariah knows something big and important was announced. So right away Zechariah knows he was told something about the Messiah.

"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" (Lk 1:19). Where was Gabriel before he appeared to Zechariah in the Temple? Where did Gabriel come from? He tells us: from God's throne room in heaven.

Did Gabriel come on his own? Was it his decision to go and talk to Zechariah? No, he was sent -- sent by God. Angels with messages are always sent by God. They never act on their own. They are perfect ambassadors for God because they only go when God sends them to go, they only do what God sends them to do, and they only say what God tells them to say. God is the King of angels and the angels do His bidding.

"I am Gabriel." "I am not some run-of-the-mill angel. I am Gabriel. I have come from heaven's throne room. I have come from the presence of God Himself."

Gabriel was sent by God, as God's messenger, to Zechariah with good news. GOOD NEWS. Luke loves this phrase (it is one word in the Greek); he uses it 10 times in his gospel. GOOD NEWS. What is the good news?
The Messiah is coming. Your sins will be forgiven. You will be made right with God. And you will live with God forever.
This is not just good news, it is THE BEST NEWS EVER. This is the GOOD NEWS OF CHRISTMAS: the Messiah, the Savior, is coming. Is this GOOD NEWS, boys and girls? Is this GOOD NEWS? Of course it is.

Now, did Zechariah believe Gabriel? Did Zechariah believe this good news? Did he get all excited and say, "Wow! I am going to be a father"? Is that what Zechariah said? Did Zechariah say, "My son is going to prepare the way for the Messiah. And, the Messiah is coming soon"? Is that what he said? Did he say, "Praise God from Whom all blessings flow. Glory to God in the highest"? Is that what he said?

Listen to what Zechariah said: "How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years" (Lk 1:18). Do you hear what Zechariah is saying? "This is ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous. I am an old man and I am married to an old lady. People our age don't have babies."

Did Zechariah believe Gabriel? Did Zechariah believe the message from God? No. No. No. I said a couple of weeks ago that it has been 400 long years since the last time God spoke, it has been 500 years since the last angel showed up, and it has been 800 years since a series of miracles have been done. "I don't believe you," said Zechariah. "I don't believe you because God doesn't speak anymore, He doesn't send angels to earth anymore, and miracles don't happen anymore. I don't believe you."

This is Zechariah we are talking about. Zechariah -- who is upright/righteous in the sight of God. Zechariah -- who observed all the Lord's commandments. Zechariah -- who is loved by God. Zechariah -- who loves God. Zechariah -- who is a priest of God Most High. Zechariah knows better. But he has problems believing Gabriel. Which means he has problems believing God.

Zechariah did not believe the Word of God. This is a serious thing.

What happens when a couple are told they are going to have a baby? Let me tell you: the same thing that happened to my wife and I a couple of weeks ago. We got a phone call from our son Chris and his family in South Dakota. "We have good news," they said. "We are going to have a baby."

So what should have happened in Jerusalem that day? Old Zechariah should have been screaming his head off: "We are going to have a baby. Elizabeth and I are going to have a baby. Can you believe this -- we are going to be parents!" That's what should have happened. But it didn't and it couldn't. Do you know why?

Zechariah was punished for not believing God. Zechariah was punished for not believing Gabriel. Do you know his punishment? He couldn't talk and he couldn't hear (Lk 1:20,62). He couldn't tell anyone about his baby. He couldn't even praise God with his lips!

I want to end by asking if you would do better than Zechariah? If you were there, in the Temple that day, do you think you would be better than Zechariah? Do you think you would believe Gabriel? Do you think you would yell out a loud "Amen! Thank You, Lord"?

In this season of Christmas we hear about John and Jesus and angels and shepherds and mangers and wisemen. Do you believe this? Can you sing the words of the song:
But I know Whom I have believed,
And am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I’ve committed
Unto Him against that day.

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