Luke 1:23 – When [Zechariah's] time of service was completed, he returned home. (NIV)
It's just a little sentence, yet it's one that reveals a lot about Zechariah's character. He's just had a profound, miraculous experience. He's just been struck dumb by the whole event. He has become the centre of speculation, and has joyful news to take home to his wife. They are to expect a child in their old age. Yet it's only when he finishes his work that he goes home.
This says a lot about his commitment to God's work. It was first in Zechariah's life. He had religious duties to perform on behalf of the people. He had prayers to bring before God. And he didn't waver from that devotion. No one would have blamed him for going out immediately and celebrating the great news he had just received from Gabriel. But Zechariah is committed to God. The Holy One Whom he serves becomes first and foremost in his life. He won't go home until his service is over.
Why is this verse so important? Because it tells us that his son John will have the same characteristics. He will grow up to be a great prophet, and will lead the people to the Jordan to be baptized. His ministry will change the lives of many, but when the Anointed One comes, John's service will also be completed, and he will at last go home to God.
We are all given a special service and purpose to complete in each of our lives. As each day goes by, we get one step nearer to the completion of our earthly lives. On that day, when we come face to face with our Maker, will our service be over and our work on earth done? If so, then we will be greeted in heaven with these words: "Well done, good and faithful servant! Come and share your master's happiness!" (Matthew 25:21 NIV)
Prayer: Lord Jesus, we are meant to serve You in this world. Help us to complete the tasks that You set before us each day. And when that sacred time comes when we shall personally meet You, may our work be complete, may our service be over, so that we can go home at last. Amen.