The Tale of Two Questions – Luke 1 Continued…

by DanWolgemuth on December 15, 2023

And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” (Luke 1:18)

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34, ESV)

In the months that preceded the birth of Jesus, the angel Gabriel was on cosmically critical assignments. While I don’t pretend to know the job description for an archangel, I do know that within a year of each other, Gabriel paid a visit to an old man, and a teenager. Both visits resulted in questions. And these questions revealed a great deal about the individuals involved, and consequently, they also shed some light for us.

Upon hearing the prophetic pronouncement that Zechariah’s wife, Elizabeth, would become pregnant, Zechariah responded… How shall I know this? And then he followed with the self-evident declaration that he and his wife were old enough to push walkers, so a pregnancy seemed a bit out of the question.

Zechariah’s question, “How will I know?” is a faith question. It’s a question verbalized with the accent of doubt. A question disconnected from the character and competence of God. A question that ignores or overlooks the history of Abram and Sarai in Genesis 15.

But then, later in the chapter, Mary asked a similar question. At least on the surface it seems similar. After her prophetic pronouncement, an announcement that was not only a birth announcement, but an historic pivot for all of mankind, Mary asks… “How will this be?”

Unlike Zechariah, this is not a faith question, but a function question. Mary isn’t asking God to prove Himself, she’s asking God to unveil His cosmic plan. Her words are straightforward and factual. Paraphrased they would be, “I’m ready, but I’m also a virgin.”

Not a question of “can”, but an exploration of “approach”.

Mary trusts, and her trust in God to do what only God can do leads her to the question of methodology. Not if, but how.

There is no historic Biblical precedent for Mary to reference. No cosmic archive to retrieve.

She’s in new territory, both historically and biologically. But she doesn’t doubt. Perhaps her teenaged life isn’t cluttered with the disappointment and pessimism of age… but most likely, she is anchored in the simple faith that comes from a soul that is seasoned beyond its years, and a deeply rooted confidence in the plan of God.

She reels. She stands in awe. And then she asks.

For Mary, God’s competence is never the question.

Nor should it be for us. Generations upon generations later, our questions need not be questions of faith. God will do what God has said He will do. Exactly how and when He delivers is up to Him. And in this, Mary shows us the way.

Question how, but never if?

And for this, Mary is to be honored and revered. She is to be celebrated. Indeed, Mary is the first believer. The first to say, “Yes”.


When and how… not if.

Mary had to believe without precedent. None of the rest of us have to.

Before the manger. Mary. A virgin. A steward.

Luke 1 confronts our doubt so that the rest of the Gospel can confront our sin.

Before a baby in a manger… Luke 1.

He can. He will. He does.

To be continued… 

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