One of my favorite parts of the Christmas story is the different responses Zechariah and Mary had to the Angel. One wondered how can I know this, the other wondered how can this be. It may not seem like much of a difference but the responses are night and day when it comes to believing a message from God.
First we will look at Zechariah’s encounter with the Angel and then we will see how Mary responded. Luke 1:11-20 CSB “An angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified and overcome with fear. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. There will be joy and delight for you, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord and will never drink wine or beer. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit while still in his mother’s womb. He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to make ready for the Lord a prepared people.” “How can I know this?” Zechariah asked the angel. “For I am an old man, and my wife is well along in years.” The angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and tell you this good news. Now listen. You will become silent and unable to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.””
Luke 1:28-38 CSB “And the angel came to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you.” But she was deeply troubled by this statement, wondering what kind of greeting this could be. Then the angel told her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Now listen: You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will have no end.” Mary asked the angel, “How can this be, since I have not had sexual relations with a man?” The angel replied to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. And consider your relative Elizabeth — even she has conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called childless. For nothing will be impossible with God.” “See, I am the Lord’s servant,” said Mary. “May it happen to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.”
Zechariah was a priest before God. Mary was a godly woman. Zechariah was deeply familiar with the things of God. Mary had a simple trust in God. Zechariah’s response to the pronouncement has always puzzled me. He says, “how can I know this” and I’m like dude, an angel is standing in front of you as you are ministering before God and you ask how you can know this?! You know the story of Abraham and Sarah yet you don’t see how God could cause Elizabeth to become pregnant?! It’s baffling to me.
I don’t really know why I’m so baffled, don’t we do the same kind of thing all the time on much lesser issues? Now look at Mary, she asks a reasonable question, “how can this be because I haven’t had sexual relations with a man?” Zechariah had no reason to question something he had record of God doing before. Mary however asked a legitimate question. The Angel answered her question and said, “I am the Lord’s servant, may it be done unto me according to your word”.
Now that is faith! The answer made no logical sense yet she received it and believed it.
Every year their different responses to God’s message causes me to ponder how I have responded to God’s Word that year. This year God by the illumination of the truth in His Word set me on a solid path in His Word and as I will be studying the New Testament over the next three years I am confident that the Holy Spirit will keep me within the bounds of the Word of God.
Take some time today and reflect on Zechariah and Mary’s responses. Examine your own obedience to the written word of God. What areas have you questioned God’s truth and what areas have you been faithful to? Are there things you need to repent of, work on, and continue to grow in? If your Bible reading hasn’t been what you’ve wanted it to be this year, start making a plan for next year now. Start getting in the rhythm of daily reading now so that you are ready for January.
Evaluate, take inventory, make changes and enjoy this wonderful Christmas season.