And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.”
— Luke 1:18-20
Gabriel has come to tell the aged Zechariah that his wife Elizabeth will give birth to a son (John the Baptist). You would think that when an angel scares you half to death, you’d believe what he says. But Zechariah doubts.
At this point of doubt, then, you might expect Gabriel to say, “Never mind, then. I’m taking my Baptist and going home.” And he does take something away from Zechariah — his voice. But he still gives Zechariah and Elizabeth the baby anyway.
This is a picture of grace. The “good news” (v.19) “will be fulfilled” (v.20).
I notice the interesting contrast between verse 20 and the declaration of Luke 1:6, that this couple was righteous, blameless keepers of the law. That God would call this doubting old man, who won’t believe when an angel is right before his face “blameless and righteous” is just further proof that there is no faith so little that it can’t be saving, that it’s not the strength of the faith that saves, but the strength of the Savior.
And it’s also proof that blamelessness and righteousness aren’t earned but given. If Zechariah and Elizabeth were given what they deserved and what their circumstances indicated, they’d just keep going through the motions, getting older than old and die. Instead, God blesses them according to his goodness, according to his glory, according to his strength, redeeming their circumstances, redeeming their time. Zechariah’s faith might have been little, and at the moment it mattered most, it was practically nonexistent — “you did not believe my words,” Gabriel says — but God’s saving plan will prevail.
There is no faith so little that it can’t be saving.
When we come to the end of this passage in v.25, Elizabeth is holding her pregnant belly and says, “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”
All hope seemed lost. For this couple and for Israel. But God would not be hindered by weak faith. Jesus says a faith the size of a mustard seed will move mountains. Despite all their weakness, God has taken away their reproach.
The shame, the accusation, the insults, the derision — taken away by God’s grace.
Jesus later calls Zechariah’s son “the greatest man born of woman” (Matt. 11:11). John went on to proclaim the Lord’s favor and prepare the way for the Messiah’s ministry by pointing people to Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. But he had his own moment of doubt at a low moment. (Like father, like son?)
John was in prison, awaiting his execution, and he sends word to ask of Jesus, “Are you really the one we’ve been waiting for?”
Do you remember that it’s in this exact same scene where Jesus calls John the greatest man who ever lived? This guy who just exposed his doubtful question in his moment of fearful weakness — the greatest?
There is no faith so little that it can’t be saving. Faith does not have to be strong to be saving, it just has to be real. The smallest faith, if it is real, receives the same strength of Christ in salvation as the strongest faith.
Your little strength is no hindrance for God. In fact, our weakness is God’s primary means of demonstrating his power, power that will be revealed gloriously even when our strength gives out totally and we die. For when we die, we will know only his power, which in the end will raise us up.
John the Baptist must have learned this somewhere along the way, maybe from his old dad Zechariah, because he declares in John 3:30, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
No matter your weakness, God is God. And no matter your faith — big and strong or tiny and feeble — if it is true faith, saved is saved.