Luke 1:34-38 (NIV) “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.
Some point to a similarity between Mary’s question of Gabriel and that of Zechariah (1:18). They then try to explain the disparate treatment that the two of them received. But the questions are not actually that similar. Zechariah wanted proof, some sign that would overpower his doubts that God could accomplish what He was promising to do, while Mary was simply asking about the “how”: How was God going to accomplish this pregnancy, since she was a virgin.
That was a reasonable question. In the history of the world it had always taken the union of a man and a woman to produce another human being. Even in miraculous births like Isaac, Samson, Samuel, and even John, the miracle was that God enable the natural methods of conception to work for those who were sterile, past the age of child bearing, or both. Mary was expecting Gabriel to tell her that either she needed to move her marriage to Joseph up – awkward and suspicious-looking to the rest of the village, or that the Messiah would be conceived later, after the marriage took place. The latter seemed less likely based on the urgency and immediacy of the angel’s announcement.
But there was a third option that no one would ever have considered. God was doing a completely new thing. The child to be born, Jesus, the Messiah, would be a real human being, hence the need for a human mother. But He would also be fully divine. Therefore, Mary’s pregnancy would be initiated supernaturally, through the power of the Holy Spirit, not by the uniting of sperm and egg.
Even though Mary said nothing at first, Gabriel knew that her mind had been thrown into confusion by this whole scenario. It seemed to impossible, even for God to do (and it had never been done that way before!). So he laid out the evidence of Elizabeth’s miraculously enabled pregnancy, something that no one would have believed possible at her advanced age. For Mary, this was like a Bible story come to life and, even though Elizabeth’s pregnancy had not been initiated like her own would be, it settled in her heart an assurance that it really could be done as Gabriel was promising.
As said before, Mary was a righteous devout young woman, completely devoted to God. As such, she would never consider saying no to something that was so clearly His will for her. Even though she knew that this whole thing would undoubtedly cause complications for her, even in her relationship with Joseph, she trusted that God would protect her, and the He would be able to make everything work out right.
So she said yes. And, at that moment, Gabriel vanished, and the work was done in her body. The reality of the Messiah had begun!
Father, it is much easier to trust and believe Your promises, and even Your callings on our lives, when we can see or reason out how You could make it happen. It’s harder to trust when Your promise or calling seems impossible to our finite minds, when the way ahead seems dark. Help me to take Mary as my model in those times – to be someone who cannot ever imagine saying no to Your will, so who simply says yes, trusting You implicitly to work out all of the details and to provide every necessary thing on the way. Amen.