Re: Lessons in Faith (birth of Jesus)
"Blessed is she who believes, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord." (Lk1:45)
"And so it came about, when the angels had departed from them into Heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, Let us go at once to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us. And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child." (Lk2:15-17)
Would you go to the First Church of St. Hoity-toiy, walk the many steps to where the secretary, in hushed ('holy') tones would whisper that the Most Right Reverend Doctor Mr Big Shot "will see you now" as he greets you with hands clasped together, with straight fingers pointed towards the sky. You see, all this aura indicates, and it is how you know that...he is SO HOLY. Therefore he is qualified to give you the answers you seek.
Or, just down the block is this little place, and the guy is out there and has been mowing the lawn. But is right now sitting on the step, wiping the sweat off his face, drinking some water. And the two of you meet each other's eyes, and start talking. He might be one of the ushers. He's older and retired. The pastor is at his "day job" because the church is too small/poor to be able to hire a "full-time" pastor.
This is sorta like that question we've asked a couple of times about the "three brothers": one was a proud preacher who divorced his (sweet) wife in order to openly marry the "hot secretary", another was a missionary who on the down-low has an affair and even when discovered denies it, or the third one who lives most of his life as an openly womanizing boozer but then the Lord gets his attention with heart surgery and his life turns around and the short time his life remains he has turned his life around.
As Jesus told about the two who went to the temple to pray...
So now...doesn't Zaccharias remember the account of Abraham and Sarah? Does he not remember how Sarah laughed, and denied laughing, and God says, "No, but you did laugh" (Ge18:15) Of anybody in Israel in those days, Zaccharias knew the Scriptures. He knew how God deals in the fulfillment of the "unlikely". Zaccarias was leading in a prayer meeting. At that very moment he was IN PRAYER to God, God sends His angel, and Zaccarias doubts the message. Of what use was the rest of the ritual "prayer" (with incense) he was engaged in with Israel gathered around the temple? Jesus would say,
And furthermore... "But let him ask in faith, doubting nothing, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways." (Ja1:6-8)
Mary was of the priestly lineage. (Lk3:23-38) But she was not likely as well-versed in the scriptures. It is often thought that she would have been something around 14-16 years of age. And girls were typically not educated like men were. There is a whole movie ("Yentl") based on the traditional premise that the only way a girl/woman could learn Torah was to dress as a man, so it would not be known that she was a woman, so she could study. Thus, when she questions the angel about "how" she is to become pregnant without a man, the angel explains it...and praises her faith.
Now, if Mary was of the Levitical lineage, she might have heard things through the 'men' of the family. But shepherds were 'nobodies'. In this country they used to speak disparagingly about "dumb farmers". If somebody grew from the ranks of farmer/ranch-dom to becoming educated and -became- "something", it was considered to be a phenomenal accomplishment.
It isn't recorded that they questioned anything. The angel appears to them to make the announcement, the choir proclaims, and immediately "Let us go AT ONCE" and see this thing. They came "with haste" (Lk2:15-17) Can you imagine Mary and Joseph playing host to a bunch of huffing and puffing (panting) shepherds. And then think of the sounds as they left, shouting and yelling to everybody within hearing: The Messiah was born tonight, the angels told us about it, and we went (pant, pant, pant) to the stable and we saw Him...!!
Of the three, who had the most faith? And who -acted- on their faith? You know, Jacob says that "faith without works is dead" (Ja2:17) The shepherds heard the message, and RIGHT AWAY went to spread the news.
Mary was not like today's typical teenagers: when some good news comes, to yell and scream (in the range where bats make their noise) and jump around all over the place. She did a lot of "pondering" in her heart. (Lk2:19) She was of the "meek and quiet spirit" (1Pt3:4)
But what about Zaccarias? He was conducting (outwardly) a mass prayer meeting. But when the angel actually appeared to him...it's like: Prove it. Who had he been praying to? Did he not recognize that God (to whom he was praying) and the angel (sent from God) were from the same place? Was he one of those of whom Paul would say, "For not all those of Israel are Israel"? (Ro9:6b)
It seems as though it was the women-folk who were of faith. When Mary goes to visit Elizabeth, she speaks of Mary as "she who believes" (Lk1:45) as Zaccarias is in his "mute" period.
But then, he proclaims "His name is John" (Lk1:63) it seem his faith was restored.
Wouldn't it have been "fun" to live during that time!