Luke 1: On Visions and Faith: A Comparison of Zechariah’s and Mary’s Responses to the Angel Gabriel

Zechariah’s Response

In Luke 1:18, Zechariah asks Gabriel, “How will I know that this is so?”  A good faithful person can have their doubts about God.  What is the cause of our doubt?
Gabriel Appears Before Zechariah

Gabriel Appears Before Zechariah

In most cases I think doubt is caused by believing that things can never be other than they are, especially as we have always experienced them.  Just being human in a worldly society conditions us to take what we see, hear and touch in the three dimensional world as more “real” than what we hold as an ideal or a miracle that we have heard about—especially if we feel buried under the constraining weight of that reality.  Zechariah, based on his own experience, probably thought as we think that old women can’t have children because he personally didn’t know any old women who did.  Yet what I find interesting is that 1) he must have known the story of Abraham fathering Isaac when both father and mother were well into their dotage.  The concept was there that God could do this sort of thing.  And 2), he didn’t seem to question the fact that he was dealing with a real angel and not an illusion. A vision is a type of intuitive insight.   Zechariah, to his credit, did not doubt he had a powerful vision nor did the people waiting for him.  Its effect was obviously overwhelming for him and all concernedIf this happened today, Zechariah most likely would have been prescribed medication and told to go home and forget it because a great many people in our contemporary culture don’t believe God acts in special ways with ordinary people.

This then points to another cause for doubt for Zechariah and for usand I think a much more significant one for those of us who know that the transcending divine power can break through into our lives—is a questioning whether God would do something so touching for me.  Obviously this miracle of a birth in old age would release not only the deep suffering Zechariah and his wife faced but also give him his place in Jewish history as fathering a special prophetic son—“to have such a son!” as they would say.  Anyone familiar with Hebrew scripture would know this was a miracle on the order done for Zechariah’s glorious ancestor Abraham.  I think almost anyone of us would react the same way because a person has to have a very strong sense of being special to God NOT to doubt that God wants to work miracles personally through him or her.  To get such news would be a humbling experience, leaving most of us speechless or feeling like we are candidates for the funny farm.

Mary’s Response

On the other hand, Mary replies to Gabriel (Luke 1:38), “Here am I, the servant of The Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” What does it take to risk for God? Have you ever known that kind of faith?
Mary's Vision

Mary’s Vision

In contrast, even with her initial astonishment and perplexity, Mary’s response to how God wants to work through her typifies that of a person who has a deep intuitive understanding of her relationship to God and is comfortable with it.  She clearly knows her status as servant in relationship to God and is well aware that God can ask anything of her and she will do it.  Because she is naturally humble, her amazement is what causes her to be astonished and perplexed that God asked her, a lowly person of no account, to do something great, worthy of a person of high status.  Unlike Zechariah who is blinded by a false pride that nothing can be done for him—a common feeling among all of us when problems pile upMary’s clear understanding of the all-encompassing power and mercy of God allows her to respond unreservedly with profound joy and gratitude, making her an ideal open channel for God’s grace in the world, and thus making it possible for her to give birth to the Divine in this world.  In a sense it is a model for all of us who are called to be channels for divine graces in a variety of different ways.  The characteristics of this kind of faith are a capacity for joy, an unconditional trust, a willingness to risk all, to go for broke, and a profound sense of gratitude for the risk we have been asked to make.

The one time in my life when I was challenged to “risk it all” was in 2007 when shortly after having a vision of Jesus just standing in my bathroom which I was tempted to attribute to the migraine I was experiencing at the time, I underwent an overwhelming kundalini release that sent immense waves of energy coursing through me, amplifying all my emotions and sensations to a heightened intensity, including the terror of wondering what was happening to my body.  Throughout my life, I had been blessed with good health and felt so at home in my body.  Now, my body was literally shaking so much for extending periods every day that I could hardly walk, much less concentrate or work a regular job.  I was not at home in my own skin and literally wanted to jump out of it!  At the energy’s most intense period, when all I could was lie on the bed and pray, a strong voice came out of the blue saying, “I have chosen you.”

After getting assurances from two psychologists that I wasn’t going crazy, I intuitively felt called to move in a new direction, and the more I could unreservedly go in that direction, the better off I would be.   It meant gambling my recently acquired inheritance by investing in a move to a faraway location and preparing for a new career in a field that has no well -paying, secure job openings.  More importantly, it meant making the decision to go off the strong medications that had brought me back to “normal.”   This was a scary and dangerous risk which my doctor opposed because of the difficulty most people have in dealing with such a condition.  However, this was something I felt called to do.  Because I knew what kundalini was I knew I could trust its work in my system.  It meant allowing this energy do its cleansing work through my body, psyche and soul—something Philip St. Romaine has compared to sitting on the edge of a volcano and watching it erupt.  Beyond the considerable strange and frightening physical sensations which for me mimicked having strokes and heart problems, I was observing the unraveling of my protective ego masks—something that surpasses any TV horror show because it is real and it was happening to me.  All I could was trust unreservedly because what is happening is the birth of a higher state of consciousness and a healthier, detoxed body that most people experience who are willing to go through the difficult process.  The attitude of complete trust, I discovered, was what alleviated the difficult physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of my kundalini experience and was what opened me to experience ecstatic joy AT THE CELLULAR and ENERGY FIELD LEVEL called the kundalini awakening– an experience I think many humans are meant to know because it is a visceral knowledge of our truest selves.  Now I have nothing but gratitude for the experience and it is a humbling one since, naturally, I was more like Zechariah than Mary in my willingness to undergo the process.

For an informed description of kundalini energy in a Christian context, please see Kundalini Energy & Christian Spirituality by Philip St. Romaine.

Compare the Song of Mary (Luke 1:46-55) and the Song of Zechariah (Luke 1:47-55). To whom is each addressed?  What do they tell us about God and God’s relationship with God’s people?  What about God in our lives?

Mary is speaking to Elizabeth as she responds to the joyful greeting of her relative.  It is the ultimate joyfest of two blessed women who have been elevated to high status after experiencing lowliness and disgrace.  They know the power of their God, now not just in faith which is a form of intuitive understanding, but literally in the flesh.  This is a perfect example of how intuitive truths must first be held in ideal form, and adhered to during a time of testing long before they are manifest on the physical plane.  This is how energy works, gives life and shapes form on the physical plane.  It is always God who calls us to greater risk that we might become greater people with the unique genius that God wants expressed in each us, even if it is just the grace of doing little things in a loving way such as St. Therese of the Child Jesus manifested.

A strong relationship with God provides the firm bonding needed to withstand the power of divine energy moving beyond the usual but subtly and often missed supporting expressions in physical form to an apparent miracle producing event of startling proportions.

Zechariah is addressing the people who came to perform the circumcision on his son.  These people were probably either priests or functionaries of the temple, people responsible for handing down the traditions of the Hebrew heritage.  In this scene, Zechariah is clearly inspired because now his tone of speech is joyful, authoritative and healing to his people.  It is no longer fear filled and doubting.  His transformation shows us how we, too, can be made over to communicators of God’s astounding graces despite all our shortcomings, doubts and anxieties.


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The Traveling Sketchbook: An American Kid Discovers Japan, a coming of age story set in Japan.  See

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6 thoughts on “Luke 1: On Visions and Faith: A Comparison of Zechariah’s and Mary’s Responses to the Angel Gabriel

  1. Pingback: Luke 2: Insight as a Personal Gift and a Gift for the World | Fran Kramer

  2. Thanks for sharing this profound post, Fran. Your path is amazing. You did the leap of faith.
    This resonates with me today. It is my second nudge by the universe today to let go of doubt and to switch from Zechariah mode to Mary mode.

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