When told they would have miracle babies, Zacharias and Mary asked the angel basically the same question: How? Yet, the Angel Gabriel chastises Zacharias and not Mary. Why is this?
- Something technical in the Greek with Zacharias’ question implied impudence or a lack of faith. I didn’t study Greek so, if you did and you’re reading this: help me out.
- Gabriel’s response to Zacharias introduces/solidifies his authority within the narrative and doesn’t need to be reestablished with Mary.
- Zacharias’ situation and Mary’s situation were different because Zacharias could have children. Having a child was improbable for him but not impossible. He did not need clarification from the angel as to how a possible thing would happen. He wanted assurance because he lacked the faith that God could make even possible things happen. Mary needed clarification because it was impossible for her (being a virgin at the time) to have a baby. Maybe there was some fear about being forced into an immoral position by having an ‘oops’ baby. She needed the angel to clarify what, exactly was going to happen.
I like #3 because it puts the illegitimate questions I ask God into the proper context. You see, I want to be a successful novelist, a successful songwriter, and a world traveler (1 out of 3 so far.) I have big ambitions that I would like God to bless and…bring to term. But God has sent no angels to give me the rundown and it wouldn’t take a miracle for me to have success in those areas. It would take hard work, persistence, a lot of luck etc., Whether I gain those successes is irrelevant to my relationship with God. He could use such events for His plans but he doesn’t have to and I don’t need them in order to serve God.
If I were to ask God repeatedly: “How do I become a successful__________?” or “How do I get _________?” I am not asking for guidance. I’m asking for favors and I’ve lost focus of the biggest favor God did for me.
In a strict sense, Zacharia’s baby was a miracle and it was part of God’s plan of salvation. It also mirrored the Abraham/Sarah story beautifully. But it was technically possible. Zacharia could do his part in accomplishing it by continuing to be a good husband. Mary could not do a part in bringing Jesus into the world without an actual miracle. If she were to take action to make a baby, she would actually be working against God’s plan.
Maybe my thinking is too worldly here. Maybe everything good in life is a bonafide, God-caused miracle. To me, that’s a theological point but not practical to focus on. I think about work. Of course it is because of God’s goodness and providence that I have a job and this job gives me money to provide for my family etc.,but too often, I ask God: “How will we keep food on the table?” “How will we get out of debt?” “How will we pursue our dreams?” And I can think of several motivations for these questions: none of them good.
I could be doubting that God will take care of me on a basic level. God promised not to leave or forsake me. The Psalms promise life for the good, not the good life. Jesus promised an easy yoke and eternal salvation. He didn’t promise a book deal or millions or a debt free life. These are very different things: needing faith to move mountains and needing faith to walk up a mountain. Though both might require work from me, the former would necessitate a miraculous intervention from God while the latter could fail by virtue of my own failing or the happenstance of events.
Even on the acceptable edge of ‘health and wealth’ thinking (ie; God wants to bless your ‘ministry’) we are looking to God for the miracle of making a reality out of what we want. The central miracle we should be looking for, the one that we should consider impossible, is salvation, is a restored relationship with God through forgiveness of our sins. That’s the biggest miracle God did accomplish in history. To the degree we ask God ‘how’ all these little things will happen in our favor, we miss the big thing that already happened in our favor and how impossible it should have been, but for the love and power of God.