Friday, December 12, 2014

But Didn't They Ask the Same Question?

Zachariah to Gabriel: "How shall I know this?  For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years."

Mary to Gabriel:  "How can this be, since I do not know a man?"

Every year, the same question comes up.  How come Zechariah gets in trouble for saying the same thing Mary said?  It's often been said that Zechariah's question came from unbelief and doubt, whereas Mary responded in faith.  But where did we get that idea, anyway?

Well, the story does tell us, point-blank --
The faith of the heart.  Luke 1:20 tells us that Zechariah "did not believe."  Verse 38 says that Mary responded in faith: "according to your word."

More about the difference --
Zachariah was in the temple, confessing sins and praying for the Messiah.  An angel comes from the Lord and announces that the Lord has heard Zechariah's prayer.  Even though he was right smackdab in the middle of praying for the things the angel announced, still Zachariah said "no" when he heard the message.
According to church tradition, Mary was going about her daily chores when the angel came to her. 

Also, notice there is a difference in the questions --
Zachariah asks, "How shall I know?" while Mary asks, "How can this be?"  Those may sound like the same question to us.  But the answer to Zechariah's question is, "Uh, excuse me.  I'm an angel.  I've been sent by the Lord.  And I just TOLD you, for pity's sake.  And what I told you was from the prophet Malachi.  That's how you shall know.  And besides, good golly, don't you remember the stories in the Scriptures where an old man and a barren woman had a baby?  This has happened before, you know."

Mary on the other hand doesn't ask how to know.  She asks how this can be.  She needs to "test the spirits" (1 John 4:1).  "You're going to have a baby."  "But I haven't known a man."  The angel proceeds to explain that the child will be conceived by the Holy Spirit.  And Mary concludes that this angel speaks in harmony with Isaiah's prophecy. 
Furthermore, Mary leaves Nazareth and heads to Elizabeth's place.  And what does she find?  Elizabeth is pregnant.  Just as the angel said.  Hmmm -- this sounds like a pretty reliable messenger.  She hangs around three more months.  Baby arrives.  Hmmm -- it's a boy.  Just as Gabriel had told her.  This angel agrees with scripture, and what he says comes to pass. 

So let's have no more of this, "But they said the same thing.  Why is one punished for it and the other is not?"

No comments:

Post a Comment