How Can This Be? Mary and Zechariah’s Response to the Same Message


In the Gospel of Luke, the angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah and also Mary, announcing the upcoming births if their respective sons: John and Jesus. In both cases they were frightened and confused. Their responses are similar, questioning how this could be and the angel’s response is much different. Zechariah was made unable to speak until John was born. Mary was given an explanation of how the Holy Spirit would overshadow her and her child would be the Son of God. So why the different reactions?

Scholars point out that Zechariah was asking for a sign out of doubt: “Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” Luke 1:18

Mary’s response was more about the “how” than the “if” : “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” Luke 1:34

Zechariah was punished for his doubt. Mary responded with acceptance: “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Luke 1:38.

I can accept that reasoning, but I think there is more to the story. Probably more was said, but was edited out of the story for brevity. It may have been more of an attitude issue than just the words.

But consider this:

When Zechariah exited the temple he could not speak. The people knew that something big had happened. When Elizabeth became pregnant at her advanced age, it had to be the talk of the town. When John was born and Zechariah wrote that his name was to be John, his voice returned. Everyone had to take notice that this child was special. John was “A voice of one calling: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God’.” Isaiah 40:3  Ironic that Zechariah regained his voice when the “voice calling in the wilderness” took his first breath. God is clever like that.

Mary’s message was shared only with her husband-to-be and her cousin Elizabeth. The birth of Jesus was only known to three wise men, a handful of shepherds and a barn full of animals (and maybe even a little boy with a drum). The greatest birth in the history of mankind, with very little fanfare. Jesus grew up mostly unnoticed until it was time for His ministry to begin.

Same message, two different paths.

Your path may be greeted with great fanfare, or the humble quiet of a stable, or just in finding a random stranger in need of a kind word and a bite to eat. In grateful acceptance, fear begins to subside and faith takes over. Proceed patiently and thank the One who is guiding you around the next curve.

Proceeding patiently in grateful acceptance.
And Blessed in Great Measure



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