Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, has two scenes in the first chapter of Luke but is still important in the life and mission of Jesus. The good doctor Luke begins the Christmas story with him. Not just as the father of John but as a time reference. He is performing the priestly duties of the division of Abijah during the time of Herod. We really are not sure when this was but Theophilus could have figured it out.
David in 1 Chronicles 24 assigned the two priestly families months when they would serve at the Tabernacle. (For a small discussion of the families go to Samuel – Priest.) These assignments would have held until the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem by the Babylonians. This concept is applied again by Nehemiah when he was governor (12:17). Abijah is one of the four names that are in both lists.
There are some loose comparisons between Zechariah and Abraham, but the notable difference is that he did not believe the news about a child being born. Just for fun I reviewed the writings of the Prophet Zechariah and found a few light comparisons; mostly that the prophet also had angelic visits. Zechariah’s (father of John) prophesy in Luke 1: 67 – 79 does carry some of the themes in the Book of Zechariah.
The fear Zechariah had while burning the incense (Exodus 30) possibly came from the thought that he had done something wrong and was not worthy to be performing that duty. This fear started with the death of Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10 and Korah’s rebellion in Numbers 16. I have read in a variety of places that the priest would have a rope tied to his ankle just in case he messed up and was struck down behind the curtain.
His reaction to Gabriel’s heavenly message was just one of unbelief, not a happy surprise; he challenged the reality that it would happen. There could be many reasons for Gabriel stopping Zechariah from speaking, but stopping the spread of his doubt seems the best. Also, his total silence for nine months adds to the importance of his real inclusion in this story, the birth of John. The other three Gospels include John and his mission, but it is interesting that the only non-Jewish writer included the miracles and signs associated with his birth.
Nine months of silence and a visit from Mary prepared Zachariah for his final scene in Luke when he confirmed the angelic message by naming his child John. He joined the small group of people who are recorded in the pre-Pentecost time as having been filled with the Holy Spirit. It is worthy to note that his prophesy started with the news of Jesus and then went to his son John. That part of his utterance carries the words of Gabriel and Malachi 3:1.
Besides fathering John, Zachariah was the link to the priesthood informing them that something great was about to happen! They choose not to accept!