But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. James 3:17
Do you rememberMagic 8 Balls? I do…that awesome Mattel toy (wow, just the name Mattel conjures up so many exciting feelings for several generations of Americans…Barbie dolls, Hot Wheels, Matchbox cars, and all those games!) that would answer any question you have about anything! Ask it any “yes” or “no” question and then shake it and, voilà, the answer would magically appear in the little window. “It is decidedly so”, “signs point to yes”, “Don’t count on it”, “Ask again later”…it was all very simple, really. We liked that about it. We got to set the agenda, we got to ask the questions we wanted answered…and if we didn’t like the answer, we could just shake it and ask again!
We’ve grown up now and we no longer rely on Magic 8 Balls to answer all our pressing questions. We realize, of course, how silly we were when we did that. Now, we have something much more powerful, something much more completely accurate to answer all our questions. Now we have the internet. The process still works the same way, of course, because it is a process we like, one we get to control. We simply log on and Google whatever our question is and, voilà, the answer magically appears on our screen. We like getting wisdom that way. It appeals to us. We set the agenda, we ask the questions, and we get the answer. We are powerful.
It is this notion of being in control and powerful, I think, that makes it so difficult for us to embrace the Bible (or a walk with …
Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” Luke 1:18a
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” Luke 1:34
Studying Luke 1 last week and this week. Last week was Zechariah. This week is Mary. But the one constant character in both lessons is Gabriel, the angel. The other element common to both stories is the reactions to Gabriel. Both Mary and Zechariah asked the same question: “But, how?” But Gabriel’s response to that reaction was very different in each story.
Let’s not play word games here, and let’s not split hairs over how their reactions are actually different. If you were writing the story yourself and wanted their reactions to read the same way, you couldn’t write it any differently than Luke did. Their reactions to Gabriel were remarkably similar. Both of them asked the same question, showing the same concern for whether Gabriel really had all his facts straight. We can engage in all kinds of speculation about their respective hearts (i.e., perhaps Mary’s question was truly one of wonder, while Zechariah’s was one of doubt, etc.), but that is just speculation on our part. We cannot judge a person’s heart. No, in order to explain Gabriel’s very different response to each of them and their respective questions, we need not engage in questions of the heart. We can find a much easier critical distinction between Zechariah and Mary: Zechariah was a priest.
Zechariah was a Spiritual leader among God’s people and was doing a Spiritual thing in the most Spiritual of all places when Gabriel appeared. What kind of sad commentary is it that, upon entering the place where God abides, doing a thing God …