This is going to be a short post, but I thought it was worth sharing. Today I started re-reading the “Gospel of Luke” and something stood out to me in the first few pages.
The account begins with two big announcements. The angel Gabriel appears to Zechariah first and tells him that he will have a son to be named John. After Zechariah manages to calm his nerves from the shock of seeing an Angel in the temple he says the following:
“How can I be sure of this? I am and old man and my wife is well along in years?” – Luke 1:18
The answer he got is kind of humorous:
“I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.” – Luke 1:19
Because Zechariah doubted he was not allowed to speak words until the time the baby was born.
The next big event is almost exactly the same situation, but with totally different results. Gabriel appears again, this time to a young virgin named Mary, and tells her she too will have a son. Gabriel reveals many wondrous things that will be said and done by this child and he instructs Mary that his name is to be Jesus.
Mary responds in a way that at first glance seems a lot like Zachariah’s reaction. After overcoming the fright that angels seem to cause in people she responds by saying:
“How will this be, since I am a virgin?” – Luke 1:34
Mary’s question, however isn’t met with any punishment or penance. She just get’s a pretty straight to the point answer.
“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.” – Luke 1:35
So what is the big deal? Why does Zechariah get the punished and Mary just has her question answered? Well I think there is a subtle, but important difference to note in the two questions. Zechariah wanted to know how he could be sure God would act. Mary knew God would keep his word, she only wished to know how he would keep his promises.
Zechariah, though he was a high priest, saw an impossible obstacle and wondered if God could move it. Mary, though she was young, saw an impossible obstacle and wondered how god would move it.
We should all strive to be more like Mary in our faith.