Zacharias and Mary

Published by DonDavidson on

Angels visited both Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, and Mary, the mother of our Lord, to tell them that they would have a child. And both asked a question. But the angels’ responses to their questions were very different. Zacharias was rendered mute—and possibly deaf [1]—until after the birth of his son, whereas Mary suffered no such ignominy. What was the difference? Let’s look at the questions each of them asked.

Zacharias asked the angel, “How will I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in her years.” (Luke 1:18, New American Bible translation) Zacharias asked for proof. He was seeking certainty to erase his doubts. We see this even more clearly in the New International Version’s translation of Zacharias’ question: “How can I be sure of this?” Zacharias was seeking verification that the angel was telling the truth—and perhaps that God was willing and able to do what He had promised to do. Zacharias was implicitly asking for a sign, and he received one when he found himself unable to talk for nine months.

In contrast, Mary’s question was, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34) Her question did not seek proof, but merely an explanation. Perhaps she was wondering if the angel expected her to seduce Joseph prior to their wedding night. In any event, she received the explanation she sought: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; for that reason also the holy Child will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35) Her response is a supreme example of obedient submission to the will of God: “Behold, the Lord’s bond-servant; may it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)

May we all follow Mary’s example of obedient submission to the will of God.

Merry Christmas.

[1] When Elizabeth, Zacharias’ wife, named their child John, their relatives and neighbors reacted in disbelief, since no one in her family had that name. So they turned to Zacharias, and Luke 1:62 says: “And they made signs to his father, as to what he wanted him called.” The fact that they made signs rather than merely talking to him seems to indicate that he was deaf.


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