This Post is based on the Grace Commentary for Luke 1:8-10.
It is difficult to know why they all showed up. One of them, Zack, was there because it was his duty. But more than that, it was also his privilege. Nevertheless, he most likely carried it out with great fear and trembling. After all, some had died doing what he was about to do.
A few probably came out of genuine desires and pure motives. But others came only because it was what they had always done. It was tradition. On this day, for an hour or two, they came and performed their duty.
But many came because of the rumors. Zack, it was rumored, was going to die today, and everybody wanted to be there when it happened. He had been chosen and he wasn’t ready. He thought he was ready, but everyone knew he wasn’t. It was so obvious.
So when he went in, everybody held their breath…and waited…
If you have already read the commentary on Luke 1:8-10, you know that I am talking about Zacharias going into the Temple to make the daily offering. Luke makes a point of stating that multitudes were outside waiting, and he has already pointed out that Zacharias and Elizabeth were childless. In Jewish culture, this implies they were cursed.
I’m speculating that maybe some of the people in the crowd that day were there with something less than pure religious motives. They’re not there to worship God, but to see Zack get fried.
At this point, as a “pastor in search of an application”, I am supposed to ask, “So, why do you go to church? Is it worship God, or just to see a good show?” Because if you want a good show, churches that provide one are a dime a dozen. (Actually, they are about $12-$20 million a dozen. The greatest show on earth doesn’t come cheap. But that’s a different point. )
And that is the way I used to preach this passage. In fact, I think when I first preached this passage, that truly is the way I preached it. I tried to put a guilt trip on people who maybe didn’t have the best motives for coming to church.
Today, I don’t care why people come to church, as long as they tithe. After all, I have to feed my kids and pay for the new education wing.
Here’s the way I would preach this passage today: This passage truly is about the greatest show on earth, and that show is this: One man, going humbly before His God to worship and to pray. He doesn’t care what people think of him. He doesn’t care what people say about him. He only cares about the supreme privilege of meeting one-on-one with God.
Certainly, he went with fear and trembling, maybe wondering if he was wrong. But live or die, this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And besides, even if God did strike him dead, what a way to go! Who else had a story like that!
Maybe Zacharias wasn’t thinking that last part, but the point is this: What Zacharias was able to do only once in his entire life, we can do every single day if we want. But how few of us do.
You want to be part of the greatest show on earth — the one that even angels watch with amazement? Just come to God in worship. I don’t care how, where, or when. Sure, it could be at “church.” But don’t limit yourself! Worship God in the forest, worship him at work. Worship Him while you play tennis, paint a picture, or study. Worship for an hour, or a few seconds while gazing at the stars.
Live a life of worship. Be like Zacharias. Be the greatest show on earth.