Believing the Unbelievable

By Ken Summers
Board Treasurer, G.L.O.B.A.L. Justice; KGS Consulting; Fort Collins City Councilmember

Mary asked the angel, “How can this be? I’m a virgin.” The angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come to you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy child developing inside you will be called the Son of God. “Elizabeth, your relative, is six months pregnant with a son in her old age. People said she couldn’t have a child. But nothing is impossible for God.
— Luke 1:34-37

How would you respond if an angel appeared to you and told you that the miracle that you hoped for, prayed for was about to happen? Would you be immediately excited and believing? Would you be trying to figure out how it could happen based on your understanding?

I have been thinking about Gabriel’s appearance to both Mary and Zachariah recorded in Luke 1. They both experienced not just a visit from “an angel” but Gabriel, who is believed to be the highest ranking angel in heaven. Both responded to the announcement of a miracle that was to take place with questions, reservations and unbelief.

Elizabeth, Zachariah’s wife had been barren. In their day this was viewed as a “curse from God.” It seems that this matter had been a continual concern and matter of prayer for Zachariah. One day, he is chosen by “lot” to be “the” priest to enter the temple to burn the incense that was outside of the holy of holies. Incense was a symbol of prayers going up to the Lord.

Undoubtedly Zachariah used this occasion to offer to the Lord the key concern of his life. When the angel appears to tell him his prayers have been answered and his wife would have a baby. Not just any baby, but one who would be a prophet and play and key role in God’s redemptive plan for the world. His “unbelief” is revealed by his asking for proof. (Luke 1:18) The “proof” was not Elizabeth’s obvious pregnancy, but Zachariah becoming mute until the baby was born.

Jewish tradition tells us that every young girl prayed that she might be “the one” who would give birth to the Messiah. When Gabriel appears to Mary, the announcement didn’t make for sense for her what were obvious reasons…she didn’t yet have a husband.

Zachariah viewed advanced age as an impossible obstacle for God to overcome and Mary viewed her lack of a husband as an insurmountable obstacle. Both of these make obvious sense.

But the Lord after hundreds of years of recorded miracles, was about to intervene in the affairs of these lives and the natural order of the world and humanity. The angel uses Elizabeth’s pregnancy to encourage Mary’s faith and then reminders her, “…nothing is impossible for God.”

Pondering these events challenges my own faith. Five years ago a faced a major health crisis with a diagnosis of West Nile disease and related complications.  The full recovery that I anticipated and have prayed for has not happened. I continue to work and pray and receive prayer for that which has not yet happened.  But my faith is challenged about it taking place. It is easy to view my physical limitations as “it has been too long”…”it is what it is”…”at least I am alive.” Perhaps none of these are all that bad, but….what if I had an announcement that what I have prayed for was going to happen? Would I be like Mary and ask, “How can this be?” Would I be like Zachariah and “ask for proof?”

Even though we believe in miracles, we still at times want to fit them into the box of our own understanding. But a miracle is just that — something that goes against the natural order of science, rationale and human logic or understanding.

It can apply to a prodigal child coming home. It may be the breaking of a “life-long” habit. It can apply to a physical miracle. It can apply to how the Lord will work to bring about His coming kingdom in the midst of political, economic and scientific realities of our world.

Mary’s resolve is seen in her response,  “I am the Lord’s servant. Let everything you’ve said happen to me.” (Luke 1:38 GW) That is the attitude of trust. That is submission to the Lord’s will. That is a heart ready for a miracle.


The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not imply endorsement by G.L.O.B.A.L. Justice. We are a faith-based, nonpartisan organization that seeks to extend the conversation about justice with a posture of dignity and respect.