An angel, a priest, and a preteen girl
Mary’s blessing in humility before God’s Word.
The Gospel of Luke contains a clever parallel. At the same time that Mary was visited by the angel of the Lord with news of her pregnancy with Jesus, her friend Elizabeth’s husband, Zacharias, was also visited by Gabriel with news of his wife’s miraculous pregnancy. Their replies are almost identical, “How shall this be?”—Mary had not yet consummated with Joseph and Zacharias was old and infertile.
But the Lord perceived a difference in their hearts. He shames Zacharias and mutes him; contrastingly in the case of Mary he provides her with an explanation. This comes as a bit of a shock, considering that Zacharias was a revered elder of a priestly order dating back to King David, and Mary was only about 12 years old. Surely he would know how to address an angel better than she. But we are reminded that despite Zacharias’ advanced learning and experience, it is faith, not intellectual prowess, which saves.
God does marvelous things with the humble. Mary certainly demonstrated bravery in her conversation with the Gabriel—a trauma which had typical heroes like Daniel and Abraham shaking in their sandals! In the original Greek, her posture is described as “the Doulae”—“the slave” of the Lord. She did not fully understand His intentions but pledged her obedience to them nonetheless. Indeed, scripture’s recording of Mary’s reaction gives us a righteous model to follow ourselves: where the Word of God was presented to Mary in the form of an angel, today that same Word is presented to us through the Bible.
We are like both Zacharias and Mary, faced with a decision to doubt or believe. We are flanked by challenges: evidence contrasting the accuracy of the Bible’s recorded miracles, paradoxes between concepts like free will and election, and questions from professors and students that we simply cannot answer. But 2 Timothy 3:16-17 urges us to press on, and not abandon the study of Scripture. Like Zacharias, who through his years of practice gained the privilege of serving in God’s Temple, we must recognize that often our understanding is preceded by faithful obedience.
Remember, even the most skilled hermeneutic comes to understand God’s special message to him through
time and silence left open for the Holy Spirit to intervene. Even then, the concept of faith also implies that God doesn’t give us every answer (Romans 9:20; Psalm 132). Like Mary, we must submit some mysteries to faith.
The miraculous Virgin Birth, asserted by the Apostles’ Creed, is one of these mysteries. Other parts of Scripture also confirm that this event was clearly not just a natural process. Jesus himself, our Scripture interpreter par excellence, poses a question: “How can they say that Christ is David’s son?” In Psalm 110:1, David calls him Lord. How can he be his son too? (Luke 20:41-44). Obviously Jesus is suggesting there is a paradox here. Christ can be seen as David’s son through the heritage of his bloodline, but what supports the other side of this paradox? The Virgin Birth: proof that Christ is also divine.
The Word of God not only offers us knowledge, but also prompts us to offer ourselves as His perfect servants. So David’s words in Psalm 119:11, “I have stored up your word in my heart that I won’t sin against you,” are echoed by the evangelist concerning Mary: “And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:51).