During the announcements of the coming births of John the Baptist and Jesus, why was Zachariah reprimanded for questioning Gabriel while Mary was not? Both questions seem to ask virtually the same thing.
While both Zachariah’s and Mary’s initial responses were to ask Gabriel a question and the questions were very similar, the answer lies in what each was actually asking.
Zachariah asked, “How can I be sure of this?” (Lk. 1.18)
Mary asked, “How will this be?” (Lk. 1.34)
Zachariah wants to know how hecan be certain that what Gabriel has said will come to pass. He hesitates to take Gabriel at his word.
Mary’s question to Gabriel was different. Her question, “how can this be?“ focused not on whether the message was true, but how the message would come to pass. Mary trusted God implicitly. She was not questioning God’s ability, but wondering in what manner God would cause the impossible to be possible.
These two questions serve as a model for how we can respond to God. Do we take God at his word, believing that what He says will come to pass? Or do we question God‘s ability to make possible what appears to be impossible?
Today we may not receive dramatic visits from angels personally imparting the word of God, but that doesn’t mean God isn’t still speaking to us. The way God speaks varies from person to person. Some people understand God’s message to them through visions and dreams. Others may hear something. Still others have a sense or feeling.
Questions In Action
One day when I was buying groceries, the cashier complimented me on the stone brooch I was wearing. She went on to tell me the thin piece of polished stone was something her mother would love. I paid my bill and walked toward the exit only to have the words, “Give it to her” echo in my head. I heard the words very clearly, though they were not audibly spoken.
For a nanosecond all my thoughts were questions: Where had the words came from? What did they mean? Did I really have to give up my pin? Would God actually ask me to do that? I didn’t like the idea of giving away a brooch that perfectly complimented the sweater I was wearing. Yet, I also understood God works in ways I don’t understand. I took the brooch off, retraced my steps to the cashier and told an astonished cashier to give the brooch to her mother.
I wish I could follow that up by relaying a follow up conversation with the cashier. How much did her mother like the pin? Did it encourage them both during a period of uncertainty? Unfortunately, that conversation never took place. I don’t remember ever seeing the cashier again. I can only trust that the God who knows everything used that pin for His divine purposes.
Through the announcements to Zachariah and Mary, God set in motion the last chapter of salvation and hope for the world He had been planning since the day Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden. Just as Zachariah and Mary were part of the plan to bring hope to the world, we are part of the plan to spread the good news of that hope to the ends of the earth. God is able to handle any question we have for Him. He also longs for our trust in Him to be so complete that our questions center on how and not if.