Mary or Sarah ?
Luke 1:26-38 (The Annunciation)
In the sixth month (of Elizabeth’s pregnancy) the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a young girl engaged to a man who whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The young girl’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary Said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
Here is Sarah’s great announcement story Genesis 18: 1-15 :
The LORD appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of this tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. He said, “My Lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on – since you have come to your servant.”
So they said, “Do as you have said.” And Abraham hastened in to the tent to Sarah, and said, “Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.” Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it. Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.
They said to him, “Where is your wife Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” Then one said, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the entrance behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women (menopause). So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?” The LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too wonderful for the LORD? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.” But Sarah denied, saying, “I did not laugh”, for she was afraid. He said, “Oh yes, you did laugh.”
Further along in verses 17-19 the LORD says to and of Abraham, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? No, for I have chosen him, that he may charge this children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice; so that the LORD may bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”
Mary responds to God’s announcement with faith and commitment. To God she says,
-Here I am
-I am a servant of the Lord
-I will do so according to your word
Despite being at first confused by the contents of the announcement, Mary trusts in the words of assurance given by God through His angel Gabriel, “Nothing will be impossible with God.”. Mary can accept God’s promise because she knows that as baffling and scientifically impossible as God’s announcement may be, nothing is impossible when God says so. If God said it, it will be. Unlike Sarah, Mary takes God’s announcement and his promise seriously. She responds not with a fear of God, but with trust.
Sarah’s annunciation is not a lovely story. Sarah is eavesdropping on her husband and his divine messengers. Unlike Mary, she does not receive a message directly from a divine intercessor. And unlike Mary, Sarah does not respond with awe. Instead, Sarah laughs at the announcement. This is serious enough that the story changes from “they/them” to “The Lord”. It is no longer the three men talking, it is now the LORD speaking and he is now talking directly to Abraham. He wants to know why Sarah is laughing. He reminds Abraham, “Is anything too wonderful (miraculous) for the LORD?”
As if Sarah hadn’t already dug herself into a deep enough hole by upsetting the LORD, she goes even further tell the LORD that he was wrong by denying having laughed. I’m not sure why anyone would tell the LORD a lie? As if God doesn’t already know the truth. I can’t imagine how embarrassed Abraham must have been. It was mighty brave and foolish of Sarah to lie to the LORD, but a promise is a promise and God kept his word her and Abraham. When their son was born they named him Isaac, meaning “he [God] laughs”.
Sarah responded to God with:
-Laughter (Doubt, mocking)
QUESTION: How do you respond to God’s seemingly impossible promises to you? Do you believe His promises? Will you respond like Mary or Sarah?
QUESTION Part 2: How would you have responded in each of these two scenarios? How would you have responded to the angel Gabriel? How would you have responded to the three messengers at Abraham’s tent? How would you respond to God after he has caught you in a lie; would you deny it or would you admit to God that He was correct?