Responding in faith

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Luke 1 sets two angelical visions against each other. In the first vision, Gabriel appears to an old priest named Zechariah to tell him that he is going to have a son.  Six months later, the same angel appears to a young girl called Mary who is betrothed to be married.[1] She too will have a child. 

For both Mary and Zechariah the appearance of an angel is frightening.  For both of them the promise seems incredulous and leaves them puzzling how this can be possible. And yet, with Mary, there seems to be something different in her response. Zechariah’s lack of faith leads to a sign which also acts as discipline on him. He is silenced until the baby comes.

Mary’s response is one of faith

38 Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.[2]

She trusts God and is willing and ready for him to fulfil his promise, ready and available to serve God’s plan whatever the cost. The result is that whilst the priest must wait many  months to open his lips in prophetic praise, Mary is soon praising God when she visits her relative, Zechariah’s wife, Elizabeth.

There is of course a great contrast here. Whilst the priest, against all the Biblical evidence fails to believe and is silenced, an ordinary girl in Galilee believes and so speaks out God’s Word, a foretaste of the revolution to come.

Some Christian traditions over emphasise Mary and create a cult around her leading to idolatry. We can go the other way and miss the lesson we are meant to learn from her life and witness. Notice that I say here “lesson” in the singular. There is one thing Mary keeps teaching us and that is to trust God, believe his promise and have faith in the salvation he offers.

[1] Luke 1:26-38

[2] Luke 1:38.

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