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Zechariah & Mary

The first chapter of Luke tells of two important people who had similar experiences. These characters were Zechariah and Mary, and what happened to both of them was extraordinary. Both were visited by an angel who told them they would be part of an impossible birth - a son to Zechariah, and a son to Mary.

But there was a difference. Zechariah was a priest. He was an official servant of God. He had every qualification and was "upright in the sight of God." His job description essentially was to be the interdmediary between God and the people - God's instrument. When the angel appeared and told him he would have a son, he immediately (even though this was an angel standing before him) questioned the possibility of having a son. Right there the angel struck him mute because of his unbelief.

A few months later the angel visited Mary and gave her the same message. Mary was incredulous as well, since she was a virgin. But the angel gently explained to her what would happen. At this, Mary made what is one of the greatest faith statements in the Bible: "I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said."

What was the difference between these two circumstances? What caused one to bring temporary divine punishment upon one and explanation with acceptance upon the other? Perhaps it fits the pattern that Jesus was to demonstrate with his life and ministry. Christ constantly calls out the hypocrisy and unbelief of those who fill the "elite" religious positions. The self-importance they heap on themselves while supposedly being the "teachers" of the faith cut against the grain of the call to radical humility and service. Therefore, who dares deem themselves worthy of "filling" such a position? Could it be that Zechariah had lost sight of the profound implications of being a priest in the presence of God, and, despite seeing himself as one who caters to an all-powerful God, dared to question the validity of his decree? Perhaps it wasn't because he questioned, but because he set himself up as one who wouldn't question, and paid the price for it.

Mary, on the other hand, was perhaps keenly aware that she was nothing more than a simple woman bound to humble life before God. She was at the mercy of not only God, but her soon-to-be husband and a society that did not value her. She carried no position, no social weight, and no wealth. People did not come to her for wisdom, answers, or leadership. So when Gabriel came to her, of course she was confused, but just as Jesus would later do, God, through the angel, put his hand on her in compassion as an innocent soul who did not yet understand what was happening. Her response reveals her in-kind trust: "May it be to me as you have said..."


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