The first chapter of Luke is an exciting chapter in the Bible and we often hear it read at this time of year. To save you some time let me set the scene for you. It’s the prelude to Jesus entering into the world. The narrative focus is on four main characters – Zechariah the Priest, Elizabeth, his barren and aging wife, Mary, the virgin, and the angel Gabriel, sent by God to announce the exciting news. Immanuel (God with us) was about to be born and Zechariah, Elizabeth, and Mary all had an important part to play in the unfolding narrative.
Today I want to put the spotlight on Zechariah and Mary and their different responses to their angelic visitations. Zechariah was told that he would father a son called John and his response to the news was unbelief. Not that I blame him for that. In his defence, he had hoped against hope for many years and was now well past the prime of life. His wife Elizabeth was not fairing much better. I suspect that his dream of fathering children was long dead and buried. Perhaps Zechariah was even at peace with his circumstances and then out of nowhere, without any warning, the angel Gabriel appears on the scene and upsets the apple cart.
Unpresuming, Zechariah had gone into the Temple to offer incense and was not expecting an angelic visitation. Scripture tells us that his response to the visit was fear, but I suspect he experienced a few other emotions as well, including shock! Gabriel said to him, ‘your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elisabeth will bear you a son’ (Luke 1:13). ‘Surely not,’ he must have thought to himself, and ‘How can I be sure of this?’ we hear him ask (Luke 1:18). Neither Gabriel nor God was particularly impressed by his response though, and, as a result, he was struck temporarily mute! Remember that Zechariah was a God–fearing man, who walked uprightly before Him. His life walk may have been pleasing to God, but his confession of unbelief certainly wasn’t. Despite this, the Word of the Lord still came to pass at the proper time.
Mary responded very differently to Zechariah and the news Gabriel brought her. She was understandably confused by the news and said so. ‘How will this be?’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin’. But once it was explained to her she exclaimed, ‘I am the Lord’s servant… May it be to me as you have said’ (Luke 1:34 & 38). Gabriel told her, ‘For nothing is impossible with God’(Luke 1:37) and she ran with the vision. The rest is history. Mary became the human incubator for the Son of God and He was born and became the Saviour of the world.
Prayer: Father God, I want to be like Mary who took You at Your word and submitted herself to Your purposes. Show me where there are areas of unbelief in my life and help me to come to a place of trust again, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
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