According to the Luke-Acts, the sign of the Spirit is an open mouth in witness and praise. Jesus says in Acts 1:8,
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you
will be my witnesses…
And this is what we find in Luke and Acts. Those who are filled or receive or have the Holy Spirit come upon them open their mouths in witness and or praise.
- Elizabeth exclaims in a loud voice. (Luke 1:42-43)
- Zachariah prophecies. (Luke 1:67-79)
- The 120 “speak in other tongues.” (Acts 2:4)
- Peter testifies (Acts 4:8)
- The believers “speak the word of God boldly.” (Acts 4:31)
- Cornelius and his household speak in tongues (Acts 10:44-46)
- Paul curses Elymas (Acts 13:9)
- The Ephesian disciples speak in tongues and prophesy (Acts 19:6)
The open mouth is precisely why being filled with the Holy Spirit is often compared to being drunk. For instance, When the crowds heard the disciples speaking in tongues on the day of Pentecost they thought they were drunk. (Acts 2:13-15). And Instead of getting drunk, Paul instructs the Ephesians to be “filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18) A person who is drunk typically loses all inhebition to speak or even sing. Think Karaoke bar. But even before Karaoke, bars have always been a place of speaking and singing. Note how Paul follows this call to be “filled with the Spirit.”
Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and
make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the
Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
To speak and to sing praise to the Lord is to allow the Spirit to move in and through you.
If the open mouth is the sign of the Holy Spirit then we can conclude that the absence of the Holy Spirit is a closed mouth. When Zachariah seeks verification, he's punished by the closed mouth. When Mary seeks information, her mouth is opened and she sings a song almost ten verse long (1:46-55). From the intentional parallels in these accounts we can see that Zachariah was meant to sing. Point after point, Luke takes great pains to reveal an important comparison and contrast in these two accounts.
Situation: Like Zachariah and Elizabeth, Mary is unable to have children. They are old. She is a virgin (compare 1:5-10, 26-27)
Message: Like Zachariah, the angel comes to Mary with the miraculous good news. (compare 1:11-17, 28-33), Don’t be afraid (1:13, 30), You will have a son (1:13, 31), You will name him… (1:13, 31) He will be great… (1:14-17, 32-33))
Question: Like Zachariah, she asks “How” – though it’s a very different sort of question then the one Zachariah asks. (compare 1:18, 34)
Response: Like Zachariah, she gets an answer. (compare 1:19-20, 35-38)
Elizabeth Reaction: And Like Zachariah, she journey’s to Zachariah’s home where Elizabeth proclaims the glory of what God has done. (compare 1:21-25, 39-45)
But then the pattern is broken in Mary's song (1:46-55)! See how it's broken.
Zachariah: Situation – Message – Question – Response – Reaction – (****)
Mary: Situation – Message – Question – Response – Reaction – SONG!
Zachariah is silenced. His song is clearly missing. Given Mary's song we see that he should have sang a song after Elizabeth response. But he doesn’t. He can’t. Instead he sits silently watching and listening to this young girl sing a song that he himself is unable sing.
Why is Mary’s mouth opened when Zachariah’s is shut?
It’s comes down to the very different responses they have to the good news.
Zachariah doubts the message and seeks for verification. “How shall I know this?”
Mary believes and seeks for information. “How will this be?”
For Luke, these two stories aren’t just about the birth of John and Jesus. It’s the very message of Luke’s Gospel and Acts. Be careful how you receive the Good News – the Gospel, Luke warns. To those who believe their mouths will be opened, but the mouths of the those who disbelieve will be shut.
The good news is that its not over for Zachariah. He has a second chance. Though it comes late, his mouth is opened when he humbles himself and submits to the good news. When he names his son John, as the Angel instructed, Zachariah, like Mary before, is “filled with the Holy Spirit” and at last sings His song (1:67-79).