Still hanging around in Luke 1. As I was reading and pondering through Zechariah’s response to the angel Gabriel that I posted yesterday, my eyes couldn’t help but drift across the page to see Mary’s response to Gabriel.
Both Mary and Zechariah were presented with what to them seemed impossible. Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth were both on up in their years, and had yet to conceive a child. But there was Gabriel standing there telling Zechariah to prepare for a child that was to come. Told him this kid would be amazing. Even told him what to name the boy. And although Zechariah’s heart was probably doing flip-flops, his mind just could not…would not…fathom such a thing.
Zechariah asked the angel,
“How can I be sure of this?
I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
You can almost feel the pain and the hope all stirred up together in his question. Tangible bitterness manifesting as doubt…a deep need for certainty.
Mary on the other hand hadn’t experienced an endlessly empty womb. She hadn’t known the desperation of wanting to hold her tiny infant in her arms and the heartbreak of yet another year that passes without a child of her own. Mary was really just a child herself at the time.
So Gabriel shows up and paints this amazing picture for Mary of this son that she will bear…that he will be the Son of the Most High, that his kingdom will be great, that he will reign forever. And Mary’s response is:
“How will this be,”
Mary asked the angel,
“since I am a virgin?”
Now just a side note here, but one thing that cracks me up a little about this exchange between Mary and Gabriel is that when Gabriel arrives and says to her “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you,” the Bible says that Mary was troubled by this and wondered what kind of a greeting this was.
Kind of an uh-oh moment for her, I guess. I mean, when the Lord sends an angel and tells you that you are highly favored, would the knee-jerk response be to wonder what in the world God was getting ready to ask us to do?
Anyway, I think the difference between Mary’s and Zechariah’s responses has everything to do with heart behind them. Zechariah’s heart had been saddened by the lack of a child and so he’d probably allowed bitterness to take root there and I can imagine that somewhere deep down inside he may have even begun to doubt God’s promise.
I think Mary’s response was less about doubt and more about an innocent wonder at how God was going to pull this off. Not so much a lack of belief, but more of a child-like question of “why?” only this was instead “how?”
So she goes from fear and confusion as to how it is that she got to be highly favored, and now that the angel has given her the news, she’s thinking to herself, okay now wait a second. How is God going to do this since I’ve never been with a man? And just as simply as she asks, Gabriel simply answers:
The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.
Just like that.
And just like that Mary says…well, okay.
Not, alright now how exactly is that going to work? What do you mean by “the Spirit coming upon me?” Could you give me a little more info there, Gabe?
Just simply, okay. May it be to me as you have said.
And as incredible as the angel’s explanation is, Mary had her answer and that was that. Although she may not have completely understood the answer, she accepted it and was willing to let God handle the particulars.
We won’t always understand everything God asks us to do. In fact, there will probably be lots of times where He asks us to do something so incredible, so totally out of our norm that at the moment makes little sense to us. And it’s in the those times that we have to receive our answer in faith and trust that in God’s plan and in His time, everything will fall into place.
Because it will…