On Sunday, I wrote over at JenHeadJen about a miracle in my family's life. Today, I saw another miracle happen. I was somewhat pondering the idea of asking for "signs". In Denver Snuffer's "The Second Comforter", he talks about how signs work, in a general sense. We are warned not to ask for signs, as "a wicked and an adulterous generation seeketh a sign" (Matt. 16:4), but Snuffer points out that once we have sufficient faith and believe, we can ask for signs. He devotes some time in The Second Comforter to this concept, however, in reading one of his other books (Eighteen Verses), he points out that we should take care when asking for signs, as they may prove to bring a challenge to the seeker. This was the case, he shows, with Zacharias asking the angel for a sign that his elderly wife will yet bear a son.
Having just read the account in Luke 1, however, I think perhaps there is perhaps more to explore in Zacharias' faith than even what Snuffer warns, regarding signs to the faithful. It seems as though Zacharias, in speaking with an angel, still doesn't believe the details this message from a holy messenger.
So basically, Zacharias says, "Prove it." This, he says, moments after the angel said to him,
"...aFear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a bson, and thou shalt call his name John.
And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth." (Luke 1:13-14)
Now I'm not going to criticize Zacharias, because I'm no scholar of scriptures, and by no means one to judge. But I appreciate the opportunity to learn from his experience, to apply to my own "belief". My interpretation is that for whatever reason, he didn't yet believe. He had an angel, a messenger of God, telling him to "fear not", "thy prayer is heard", and now you're about to experience a miracle... quite similar to what the patriarch Abraham experienced. His elderly wife – past menopause, basically – is going to conceive. I am going to assume that the angel would have understood if Zacharias was just sheerly amazed, and saying, "Seriously? Really? Me, a lowly servant, beyond childbearing years, am finally going to have a son?"
I trust God and His angels are reasonable beings, and it is easy to assume and know that they would have understood amazement at their sheer glory and power. Even amazement at the thought of such a miracle. But Zacharias was in the temple. The holy temple. There was no need for doubt as to whether or not this angel was of God, and there should have been little room for doubt as to the authenticity of the message. It seems apparent that Zacharias just did not believe. How do I know you're not just pulling my leg, Mr. Angel? Prove it.
And then he left the temple, not being able to speak for many, many months. Stuck dumb until John would be born.
At the end of Eighteen Verses, there is a talk that was given in Utah, and Snuffer included the full talk as an appendage to the book, although its content is not entirely applicable to the rest of the book. In the talk, Snuffer expounds on the holy rooms of the temple, and what transpired in them, and how they were a preparatory testament to what would happen with the Savior as he lived out the Atonement. Oddly enough, not even a week after finishing that book, I picked up Annalee Skarin's Ye are Gods, and picked up where I left off. And where I picked up at, she began a discussion on the holy rooms of the temple, and what was done there, just as Snuffer did. Both authors talked about Zacharias, and I thought how interesting, that while I never know each day where my studies will take me, here, a week before we celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ, I am able to be led to study two discussions of the activities done within the temple, Zacharias' qualifications to participate in this holiest of spaces, and how the temple ceremonies of old typified the Atonement of Christ.
Not only learning this things was cool, but seeing how to apply them to my own life was eye opening. I'm grateful, not only for the knowledge, but the way the Spirit led me to each account, particularly during the days before we remember these very important events.