Happy 2013, friends. A new year also means a fresh start in Bible Reading plans. I’m going with the Life Journal plan, developed by Dr. Wayne Cordeiro. It will take me through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice, plus a healthy dose of Psalms and Proverbs. I’m planning to blog at least once a week about what I’m reading, in addition to my other topics of autism, stories, etc.
On this first day, I’m struck with the contrast of Zacharias and Mary in Luke chapter 1. Both receive angelic messages that they will a have very, very important child. Both are shocked. Both ask questions. But only one gets punished.
Zacharias and his wife are far too old to have kids, so he asked “How will I know this for certain,” and was struck dumb for the remainder of his wife’s pregnancy. This chastisement doubled as Elizabeth’s first baby shower gift. Mary, on the other hand, gets off scott free despite asking a similar question: “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”
I’ve heard one good explanation: Zacharias was an aging priest. A man who had walked with God for decades. He was highly regarded by his peers, and apparently by God also. Mary, on the other hand, was only barely an adult. Just a girl, really. God, who has always been much more interested in justice than fairness, doesn’t worry about equal punishments for all. Rather, He judges case by case. Heart by heart. It’s no surprise, then, that the priest gets a punishment when the young girl doesn’t.
But there’s something else that jumps out at me this morning, and that’s the difference between the questions themselves. Mary’s question is a really good one. Her mother has taught her about birds and bees, and Gabriel’s announcement seems to have contradicted that lesson. “Um, Gabe… I haven’t ever, uh… how can this be?”
Zach’s question is different. “How will I know this for certain?” He wasn’t confused, he was incredulous. He wanted a sign that would prove it 100%. He wanted something that would eradicate the questions. Apparently, a visitation from Gabriel himself was not enough for him.
“How will I know this for certain?” It is the same pitfall many an evangelical has fallen for in this modern world. We want so desperately to be right, and to show the world that we are right, that we will want to have concrete evidence for every claim. And if we don’t have concrete evidence, we listen Bible Answer Men who will give us the ammunition to blow away the questions. And when that is not enough, our pastors and leaders can certainly remove the doubts with a perfect verse from the magic 8 ball that is the New International Version.
Friends, the bible is not a substitute for simple faith. Some things we will never be able to prove in this life, and we ought to be okay with that. It’s okay to answer “I don’t know.” Because everything we know, we know in part, and yet we still believe in science, medicine, the weather, cars, stop lights, electricity and our sewer systems. We have seen them work enough to believe that the water will come on when we turn the handle, even if we don’t understand how it all works.
Zacharias could have listened to the words of the angel and embraced them based on the source. Instead, he said “convince me. It’s your job to make me believe.” He was wrong. It’s God’s job to tell the us truth. He leaves the believing part to us.