“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, 3 it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; 4 so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.” -Luke 1:1-4
I like the book of Luke because Luke was a historian. He compiled an account from eyewitnesses and servants of the word. He investigated everything carefully, he checked and double checked his sources. He wrote out the story in chronological order. The other gospels are written with primary audiences in mind, the Jews or the Greeks, and while Luke states who his audience of one is, Theophilus (also his audience for the writing of the book of Acts). Due to the style structure and development of Luke’s Gospel it is truly a Gospel for the masses. This does not devalue the other Gospels. Matthew is wonderful because it helps us to understand Messianic prophecy amongst other things, Mark’s gospel is wonderful because his was probably the first gospel and thus the primary source material for others. John’s gospel is wonderful because his gospel seems to be written with those that struggle with unbelief in mind. Often when I people ask me, “Which book of the Bible should I start with?” I say, “The Gospel of John.” But Luke’s rendition of Jesus’ life I love because it is written as history, in the style it seems of the Old Testament maybe. Inspirational history.
There seems to be a lack of fairness in the casual reading of the announcements of both John and Jesus’ conceptions. Zacharias asks a question (1:18) and it is treated as doubt and he is left mute for the next 9 months. Mary asks a question (1:34) and she is in no way chastised or “disciplined.”
Honestly this may have never even occurred to you in your reading of these stories, but it has always…yes always, bothered me…so this morning I examined the story more closely.
And here is what I have come up with.
When Gabriel announces to Zacharias the notice of his soon to be conceived son, he shares with him all the pertinent details including the one that assures him of why:
“This is in response to your petition”
Zacharias is now old, so this must have been a long ago petition. A reminder that God never forgets our prayer requests!
At the end of the description Zacharias asks a question. The wrong question,
“How will I know this for certain?” -Luke 1:18a
When Gabriel announces to Mary the notice of her soon to be conceived son, he also shares with her all the pertinent details including the one that assures her of why:
“Favored one The Lord is with You”
At the end of the description and all the pertinent details Mary asks,
“How can this be, since I am a virgin?” -Luke 1:34
The only thing I can see is that Mary was not asking for a sign she is asking about functionality. She knows what she is and she also knows what she is unwilling to do, loose her virginity prior to the appropriate time.
Asking, “How can I know for certain?” Is a question of doubt. So God gave him a sign, muteness.
Asking, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” Is a question of function. Method. It would be almost better stated, “I believe you, but can you let me know though how you’re going to make this possible? Because I haven’t had sex and I know you’re not going to ask me to break God’s moral law.”
That is how I understand the seemingly incongruent responses to two similar questions in Luke chapter 1.
Next Reading: 2 Corinthian 9 & 10