The Two Responses
I am writing another syllabus and this time it is on the book of Luke. As I was reading and doing some research the other day, I came upon teaching that I believe will help you. It is found in verses 5-38 of the first chapter. What I noticed here is the two different ways that people respond to a message from God.
The first person mentioned here is a man named Zacharias. He was a priest, and at the time that he received a message from God, he was serving in the temple. His wife was from the daughter of Aaron and her name was Elizabeth. They were both righteous and blameless in the commandments and requirements of the Lord. They were both very religious and had been taught about God. This couple had wanted children, but Elizabeth was not able to conceive. They were also old and beyond the age of bearing a child.
Zacharias was chosen according to the Hebrew custom to enter the temple and burn incense. When a priest did this, a crowd of people would pray outside the temple. While Zacharias was in the temple, an angel of the Lord appeared to him. This made Zacharias afraid and fear gripped him. The angel begins to speak and reassures Zacharias that he had nothing to fear. Then the angel mentions that he knows of their prayers for a child. The angel then tells Zacharias that their prayers will be answered. Not only that, but that their son would be great in the sight of the Lord and that he would turn the sons of Israel back to God. The angel foretold of great things that would happen through their son.
I want us to look at Zacharias’ reply to the angel. This is what he said, “How will I know this for certain? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years.” Luke 1:18 (NASB95) When God speaks to us, the important thing is not just the words spoken but the way we respond to Him. When Zacharias responded to this supernatural visitation it was not a response of faith nor was it a response of how it would happen. It was a response that said how will I know this will happen.
Even though Zacharias was a religious man, he did not know God. He questioned God by asking how he could have the assurance that it would happen. The Bible tells us that faith is the assurance of things hoped for. I am sure that Zacharias and Elizabeth had hoped for a son. Hope is the beginning of faith. You will not believe for something you cannot hope for. The problem that Zacharias had was he did not allow his hope to grow into faith. Therefore, his reaction to the words of God spoken through an angel were met with unbelief. How can I know? Because of his unbelief, Zacharias remained mute until John was born.
The second person is Mary. This account of her message from God is found in Luke 1: 26-38. Mary is much different than Zacharias. Mary was a young woman probably in her mid-teenage years. She was Jewish but there is no mention of how religious she was. We do know that she was betrothed to Joseph. We would have to say she was a Jewish teenager just going about life in a normal way. We do know that she had never had a sexual relationship with a man, and she was a virgin. This time we know the name of the angel. It was Gabriel who was not one of your average angels.
Notice with me how Gabriel addresses her. He called her a favored one. Here we see a contrast between Mary and Zacharias. Zacharias earned his place through works, but Mary receive her position by favor or grace. Luke tells us that Mary was perplexed or agitated with the way the angel addressed her but instead of rejecting it, she mediated on it. Then the angel told Mary what was going to happen. She was going to conceive a son and his name would be Jesus. He would be called the Son of the Most High and He would be given the throne of David. He would reign over Jacob’s house; Israel and His kingdom would have no end. If we compare the two messages, Mary’s message from God was much more unbelievable!
It was Mary’s response to the message that is amazing. Her response was, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” Luke 1:34 (NASB95) Mary accepted the message even though she did not know how it would happen. We need to understand that God was not upset with Mary because she did not know how it would happen. Instead, the angel tells her how it will happen even though nothing like it has ever happened before. Our Father is never upset when we ask Him how. He will tell us no matter how amazing it is. So, when the Lord speaks to you, you are free to ask how.
The angel ends his description of how with this statement, “For nothing will be impossible with God.” Luke 1:37 (NASB95) Mary then simply says, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.” Luke 1:38 Mary surrendered herself to the will of God and to the message that the angel brought.
Mary’s response brought us Jesus whose birth we celebrate this month. I am sure that Mary did not know at that time the scope of the message she received and responded to. As we celebrate His birth, it is important that we respond to Him in faith. His word or message is true. It will never change. He will do what He has spoken!