Posted by: chuckbumgardner | May 22, 2013

Zechariah’s Doubt, Mary’s Faith

Our family began reading through Luke the other day. I hadn’t planned it this way, but we are now moving through Luke, having just finished Acts. I always was rather backward! One advantage I anticipate is that we will now be reading Luke in the light of Acts, instead of Acts in the light of Luke, and I hope to see more connections between the two books because of that.

In this morning’s reading, we looked at Luke 1:39-45. My daughter noticed (rightly!) the contrast between Mary’s faith and Zechariah’s doubt. Have you seen that? In 1:11-20, Gabriel appears to Zechariah, a priest who was righteous and blameless (1:5-6). All the same, when it came down to it, Zechariah was hard pressed to believe (pisteuw, 1:20) that Gabriel’s words would be fulfilled (plerow, 1:20).

Immediately after the account of Zachariah and Elizabeth, we see an account of Gabriel appearing to Mary–what has become known as the Annunciation. When Mary travels to see Elizabeth (and with Zachariah still mute!), Elizabeth is filled with the Spirit and blesses Mary: “Blessed is she who believed (pisteuw, 1:45), for there will be a fulfillment (teleiwsis, 1:45) of those things which were told her from the Lord.

“Fulfill” (1:20) and “fulfillment” (1:45) are not lexical cognates, but they are conceptually related. And in the bigger picture of the narrative accounts, the contrast seems clear: both Zachariah and Mary are visited by Gabriel, in both cases a miraculous conception is announced, but where Zachariah (as pious as he is) doubts, Mary responds in faith. “The contrast with Zechariah could scarcely be more stark.” (Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke, 96)

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