It’s easy to read the stories of Zechariah and Mary, both visited by the angel Gabriel with unlikely and hard-to-believe messages, and wonder why Zechariah was struck dumb when he asked a question but Mary was commended.
The difference is heart attitude.
26-28 Then, six months after Zacharias’ vision, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a Galilean town, Nazareth by name, to a young woman who was engaged to a man called Joseph. The girl’s name was Mary. The angel entered her room and said, “Greetings to you, Mary. O favoured one!—the Lord be with you!”
29-33 Mary was deeply perturbed at these words and wondered what such a greeting could possibly mean. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; God loves you dearly. You are going to be the mother of a son, and you will call him Jesus. He will be great and will be known as the Son of the most high. The Lord God will give him the throne of his forefather, David, and he will be king over the people of Jacob for ever. His reign shall never end.”
34 Then Mary spoke to the angel, “How can this be,” she said, “I am not married!”
35-37 But the angel made this reply to her—“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, the power of the most high will overshadow you. Your child will therefore be called holy—the Son of God. Your cousin Elisabeth has also conceived a son, old as she is. Indeed, this is the sixth month for her, a woman who was called barren. For no promise of God can fail to be fulfilled.”
38 “I belong to the Lord, body and soul,” replied Mary, “let it happen as you say.” And at this the angel left her.
Luke 1:26-38 PHILLIPS
Zechariah was a priest who had studied the Torah and should have understood the sovereignty of God. He didn’t ask a question about how Gabriel’s prophecy would come true, he asked for proof that it WOULD come true.
He questioned God’s character and faithfulness.
Mary was a poor young woman who was (most likely) unfamiliar with Scripture except what she had heard in the synagogue.
She knew how babies were made and asked a very practical question.
She wasn’t suggesting God COULDN’T do it, she simply wondered HOW He would do it.
It is portrayed so sweetly in Christmas plays and Christmas movies:
Mary bowing her head in response to the angel Gabriel’s announcement that she has been chosen to bear the Savior.
I don’t know what went through her mind before she answered. I’m not sure she had a clue what submission to God’s will would look like as it played out across the months and years.
I only know that she was willing.
And God honored her willingness to bend her knee and her heart regardless of the unknown cost.
I’m not as noble as Mary. I didn’t answer quickly when God allowed my life to be turned upside down. I kicked and screamed and resisted as long as I could.
But who can fight Almighty God?
How can I carry on if I resist the Only One Who can carry me?
My heart still balks.
It. Is. Still. So. Very. Hard.
But I bow my head and heart each morning and ask for the grace to make it true:
“Behold, I am the servant of the LORD; let it be to me according to your word.” ~Luke 1:38
- I know most of the people reading this are bereaved parents. While Mary was indeed “highly favored” the role for which she was chosen was one of heartache as well as honor. If you knew then what you know now, would you have still chosen to bear and love your child?
- It is absolutely OK to bring our questions, doubts and fears to God. Do you see the difference between Zechariah’s and Mary’s questions? Or do you think there was a difference? Why or why not?
- Have you reached a point of submission regarding the loss of your child? If you have, how did you get there? If you haven’t, what lament do you need to offer up to God so His grace and strength can fill your heart?
- It’s easy to read Bible stories like make-believe fairy tales and discount the flesh and blood humans who lived them in real time. Does it help your heart hold onto hope to realize that none of them could see the end from the beginning? Does it encourage you that they were able to rest in the Lord’s faithful and unfailing love? Why or why not?
Oh, how I long for Mary’s faith! How my heart yearns to be always willing, always wanting to let You do whatever You deem good and right. But I balk at giving up control-even as I admit I have no control-to You or anyone else.
I am often dismayed and even angry at the things You allow. I am distraught that You don’t intervene when You most certainly can and I think You most definitely should.
Help me submit willingly to Your plan. Help me wait patiently for the fruit of obedience. Give me strength to endure even when the road is long and the path inky darkness.
You are Faithful and True. You are Light and Life. Help me hold onto that truth and rest in Your goodness and love.