Welcome to the sixth blog in my series called “Woman, who art thou?” which explores key women in the Bible and how their examples are relevant to us today. In this blog, I’m going to be exploring the life of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and in particular, her visit from the Angel Gabriel and her response. I write with a little reticence but only because I want to make sure that I do her justice, being that she is the mother of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. The blog will be in three parts. The second blog will focus more on the Magnificat – Mary’s response of worship. The third blog will focus on Mary’s relationship with her son.
So, who was Mary? Mary was a first century BC Galilean Jewish woman of Nazareth. She was young – probably a teenager, poor and female. It was quite normal for girls of that culture to be promised in marriage while they were still as young as thirteen years of age. Marriages were ordinarily arranged by the bridegroom or his parents through the girl’s father. To be honest, she had all the characteristics that, to the people of her day, would make her unusable by God for any major task. But yet God chose Mary for one of the most important acts of obedience He has ever demanded of anyone. Centuries earlier, God had promised David that David’s kingdom would last forever (2 Samuel 7:16). This promise was fulfilled in the coming of Jesus, a direct descendent of David, whose kingdom will never end.
Motherhood is a privilege, a painful one, but a privilege nonetheless. Mary, at a young age, had the unique privilege of being mother to our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. This is why she is seen as being blessed among women. She had found favour with God. Mary herself, in the ‘Magnificat’, testified that all generations would regard her as profoundly blessed by God.
“….for he has been mindful of the humble servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is His name”
Luke 1: 48-49
Was she being proud? No, she was recognizing and accepting the gift God had given her. Mary was showing complete humility and glorifying God in song for what God was going to do for the world through her.
Until the visitation of the Angel Gabriel, Mary’s life was quite ordinary. She had recently become engaged to a carpenter, Joseph, and was anticipating married life. She had no clue that her life was about to change in such a dramatic way. This was not the first time that the angel had appeared. Gabriel had visited Zechariah, as well as Mary and even the prophet Daniel, some 500 years earlier. Each time, he brought important messages from God.
I would imagine that, once Mary had got over the shock of being in the presence of an angel (if that is even possible!), when Gabriel greeted her she might have been puzzled as to what was coming next (Luke 1:29). What did this heavenly being want with her?! Maybe she felt like she had won the grand prize in a contest that she had not even entered. It’s no wonder she was puzzled and frightened. What came next was the news that almost every women in Israel hoped to hear – that her child would be the Messiah. God’s promised Saviour and the fulfillment of scripture. God’s announcement of a child to be born, throughout scripture, was met with various responses:
- Abraham’s wife laughed (Genesis 18:9-15)
- Zechariah doubted (Luke 1:18)
- By contrast, Mary submitted, she believed the angels words and agreed to bare the child, even under humanly impossible circumstances.
What really stands out to me about Mary is that she does not doubt what the angel tells her, not even for a second! She does not refuse to believe it or laugh it off as an impossible task. Rather she asked how pregnancy would be possible because she was still a virgin. Gabriel told her that her baby would be God’s son.
“You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his Kingdom will never end.” Luke 1: 31-33
“…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” Luke 1: 35
His blessing on Mary, the honour of being the mother of the Messiah, would cause her much pain and come at a high cost to her personally: with her story about being made pregnant by the Holy Spirit, she risked being considered crazy; her peers would ridicule her; her fiance would come close to leaving her; her son would be rejected and murdered. But through her son would come the world’s only hope, and this is why Mary has been praised by countless generations as the young girl who ‘found favour with God’. Mary’s submission was part of God’s plan to bring about our salvation. I’m quite in awe of her willing obedience to God, something I can only aspire to!
“I am the Lord’s servant….May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38)
When Mary said that, she didn’t know about the tremendous opportunity she would have. She only knew that God was asking her to serve him, and she willingly obeyed.
- Mary may have been young in age but I have a feeling that she is mature in her faith and relationship with God. Initially, when the angel appeared to her, she may have been afraid BUT she listens to what he has to say from God and accepts it
- At no point does Mary doubt that what the angel has told her will come to pass – “May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1: 38). If anything she is curious as to HOW it will happen but she does not doubt that it WILL happen
- Mary willingly submits to the will of God and is obedient despite the potential risks to her personally, socially, culturally etc. She doesn’t ask “Why me?” or say “I cannot do this!”. She basically says “Okay God, let it be, let’s do this!”
- Mary, being young, poor and a woman, may have appeared insignificant to others in society but she definitely was not insignificant to God. God chose her for a task that would require an extreme amount of obedience. Don’t ever feel that your ability, experience, or education makes you an unlikely candidate for God’s service. Mary’s story shows us that this isn’t the case where God is concerned.
- Don’t limit God’s choices. He can use you if you trust Him!
- If sorrow or sadness weighs you down and dims your hope, think of Mary and wait patiently for God to finish working out His plan.
- “May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1: 38) – When Mary said this, she didn’t really know about the tremendous opportunity she would have. She only knew that God was asking her to serve Him and she willingly obeyed. Don’t wait to see the bottom line before offering your life to God. Let’s offer ourselves willingly, even when the outcome seems disastrous. God has a plan for our lives and knows the bigger picture – we just have to trust in Him 🙂 I’m sure God waits to hear a similar response from us.
- God’s best servants are often ordinary people who make themselves available to him
- God’s plans involve extraordinary events in ordinary people’s lives
- A person’s character is revealed by his or her response to the unexpected