The Contrast between Mary and Zacharias as to the Reception of the Annunciations, Prayer Meeting Message 22 December 2010
This is the season that we remember the glad and good tidings brought by the angel Gabriel.
Christmas is the time when we think of the annunciation of Gabriel to Mary, the announcement, the good tidings, of the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Annunciation means to bring tidings. The Hebrew word means to announce good news.
Along with the most important annunciation, that of the birth of Jesus Christ, Gabriel preceded that announcement with tidings of another birth, the birth of John, who we know of as John the Baptist.
And there are interesting contrasts in the two announcements and the responses of those to whom the announcements were made.
The two of course were Mary, the mother of Jesus, and a certain priest named Zacharias who was married to a lady named Elisabeth.
Elisabeth was Maryís cousin. That would make John and Jesus Second cousins
The first announcement, that to Zacharias, is found in Luke 1:5-38.
In this study we will concentrate on the response of Zacharias to the glad tidings of God.
Luke 1:5-26, There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. 6And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. 7And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years. 8And it came to pass, that while he executed the priestís office before God in the order of his course, 9According to the custom of the priestís office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. 10And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. 11And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. 13But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. 14And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. 15For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his motherís womb. 16And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. 17And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. 18And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? (Right here is where Zacharias indicates lack of faith for he questions the annunciation of God given by Gabriel) for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years. 19And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to show thee these glad tidings. 20And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season. 21And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple. 22And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless. 23And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house. 24And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, 25Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.
And the second annunciation of good tidings is found in Luke 1:26-38.
Again we will concentrate on the response of Mary to the good tidings of God.
Luke 1:26-38, And in the sixth month (of Elisabethís pregnancy) the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, 27To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virginís name was Mary. 28And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. 29And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. 30And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. 31And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. 32He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. 34Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? 35And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. 36And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. 37For with God nothing shall be impossible. 38And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
So tonight we will look at this interesting contrast that takes place in the Christmas Story.
That contrast concerns how Gabrielís annunciation of Johnís birth was received by Zacharias, the priest, in contrast to how Gabrielís annunciation of Jesus was received by the Virgin Mary.
It is interesting how God has begun the Christmas story by the birth of John with an invitation to look at contrasts for we know that the lives of John and Jesus intertwined much during their lives.
And this intertwining began early in Johnís life for even while he was in Elisabethís womb he reacted to the coming birth of Jesus for we remember the words of Luke in:
Luke 1:41, And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:
So early in the Christmas story account Mary the mother of Jesus is connected with that of her cousin Elisabeth the mother of John, and her husband Zacharias, because the lives of John and Jesus were to be closely connected.
So the Christmas story really begins with the glad tidings Gabriel brought to Zacharias and Elisabeth concerning the conception of John who was to preach a message of repentance and who was to announce the coming of the Messiah.
The Christmas Story climaxes with the annunciation of the coming of the Messiah by the Virgin Mary through the agency of the Holy Spirit.
John was the forerunner of Christ.
And He also was the forerunner in conception and in birth.
He came before Christ and left the earthly scene before Christ left the earthly scene.
He said He (referring to Jesus) must increase and I must decrease.
Johnís mission was to increase Christ while he himself decreased.
Iím sure that this would also be the mission of Mary his mother and that she would shun and denounce the attention that she receives in the Roman Catholic Church.
For in that church Christ decreases as she increases in statute, elevated in that church as a woman without a sin nature, and therefore God like.
But the principle by which every Christian is to live is for Christ to increase as the Christian decreases.
Christ is not made in our image but we are to be made in Christís image.
We are not to exalt ourselves but we are to humble ourselves and let any exhalation that comes, come from God.
Now Luke is careful in giving us a good account of the two birth announcements that Gabriel was commissioned to give by God.
And remember what Gabriel said was not invented by Gabriel but Gabriel was there to give to Zacharias and Mary the Word of God.
The two announcements to Zacharias and to Mary provide us with a study in contrasts.
Zacharias was a man; Mary was a woman.
Zacharias and his wife were elderly; Mary was a young woman.
Zacharias and Elisabeth were married and barren; Mary was a virgin, only engaged or betrothed to be married;
Zacharias doubted the angelís message; Mary believed the angelís message.
In Zacharias saying ďWhereby shall I know this?Ē Zacharias is asking Gabriel for extra biblical proof over and above the Word of God.
In Elisabethís sixth month, Gabriel appeared to Mary, announcing to her that she would miraculously bear a child who would be Israelís Messiah.
Her child would be great in the sight of God, and called the ďson of the Most HighĒ.
He would reign forever on the throne of his father David.
Mary had a request of the angel Gabriel, too, but her request was not for a sign, but for clarification.
How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
Mary did not challenge the truthfulness of the announcement; she merely inquired as to the method by which the impossible would become real.
There had never been a birth without physical association with a man and she had not had such association so in the natural sense how was this to be?
How then could these things come to pass?
Were there things that she should know?
Had the angel any instructions to give to her?
Was she to do anything? And the answer was ďnoĒ for in verse 35 we read:
35And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
G. Campbell Morgan in his commentary, The Gospel According to Luke, p. 24 has expressed this in this manner:
The thing shall be done by the direct act of God, the power of the Most High, the Holy Spirit, wrapping thee round, overshadowing thee, producing in thy womb the Man-child; and also, by that same act, by that same energy, by that same force, the Holy Spirit overshadowing, that which is begotten shall be held from contamination with the sin of thy nature, and in human nature. It shall be holy. It shall have being in thy womb by the act of God; and it shall be held from contamination with the sinfulness of thy nature, by the same act of God
38And Mary said, Behold the handmaid (bondslave) of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
Talk about words of faith! She was Godís handmaid; He could do with her as He chose.
Zacharias wanted some kind of proof that he and his wife would have a child in their old age doubting Gabrielís word, and it was lack of faith and it brought dumbness to him as commanded by Gabriel.
(Zacharius said, Whereby shall I know this? doubting this to be true even though Godís agent said it)
Mary wanted clarification as to what she was to do, in order to cooperate with the purposes of God, as the angel announced them to her.
She wished to learn how her conception would be achieved, since she was a virgin; she knew not a man.
She was asking for clarification, not confirmation.
There is a world of difference between her request and that of Zacharias.
Hers stemmed from her faith; the question of Zacharias stemmed from his lack of faith in Godís word, given to him by Gabriel.
Gabriel explained to Mary that she would not need to do anything, that the conception in her womb would be the result of Godís miraculous intervention.
It was to be a miraculous virgin conception, the first such thing and the last such thing.
Vs 35, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
NO FATHER BUT GOD-the virgin birth-the Son of God!
Therefore, the child will be called the ďSon of GodĒ not the son of Joseph.
As a further word of encouragement to Mary, Gabriel informed her that her elderly relative, Elisabeth, was in her sixth month of pregnancy, which bore testimony to the fact that nothing is impossible with God.
36And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. 37For with God nothing shall be impossible.
By telling Mary this unknown information about Elisabeth, the angel provided Mary with that which helped her know that the angel was an emissary from God.
Maryís response to the annunciation is a remarkable testimony to her faith in God and her submission to His will:
ďBehold the handmaid (bondslave) of the Lord; be it done to me according to your wordĒ (v. 38).
No one could have asked for any better response.
What a marvelous testimony to the magnificence Maryís faith.