Luke 1:26-38

Like Rebekah, in study five, Mary started her young life, totally sold out to God and submitted to His will and whatever demands He might make on her life. To be the mother of the "messiah" ("anointed" or "chosen one") might have been the dream of every young, Jewish girl. However, even in her wildest dreams, Mary could never have thought that her own life would turn out as it did; which makes her response all the more remarkable.

The angel, Gabriel, came to Nazareth to visit Mary to give her the news that, despite her lowly position in society (both young and poor), God wanted to use her to carry His Son. The awesomeness of Gabriel’s visit was, in the first instance, shocking but Mary recovered her composure after his reassurance that God regarded her favourably and she managed to listen to rest of his announcement. She did not doubt Gabriel’s words, although she was interested to know exactly how God planned for her to become pregnant!

Why a virgin?

The idea of a virgin becoming pregnant by the Holy Spirit is hard for us to accept - let alone understand - but, if we know the character of God as creator of the universe, we can accept that it's no problem for Him to create a baby in a virgin’s womb. This is one of the fundamental truths of our faith in Jesus, Son of God. It was vital that Jesus was born to a virgin so that sin (which entered the world through Adam & Eve) did not have any part of Jesus. He was born "holy" - set apart - just as Adam was created sinless. Later on, Jesus obeyed God by taking on the consequences (the guilt and punishment) of our sin, allowing us to be acceptable to God. (Romans 5:14-19; Galatians 4:4) Jesus entered the world in a virgin womb (uncontaminated by sin) and, when He died, He was placed in a "virgin" tomb (where no one had been laid before). (John 19:41)

Mary was a girl who knew God through the books of Moses, the Psalms and the writings of the prophets. She knew that God's "messiah" had been promised first to Adam (Genesis 3:15) then, more clearly, to Abraham. (Acts 3:25; Galatians 3:16) She had a deep reverence for God in her heart because she knew what He had done in the history of her people, for the nation and for individuals. This unmarried, teenage girl risked disaster by becoming pregnant but she said, despite the likely cost, "I am willing". (Luke 1:38) When Mary said that, she joined her faith with God’s word and conception happened. She didn't know about the tremendous blessing that she would receive and she could never have guessed the problems and heartache she would also suffer. (Luke 2:35) She only knew that God was asking her to serve Him and she willingly obeyed.

“I am the Lord’s servant... may it be to me as You have said.” (Luke 1:38)

The human cost

Total surrender was all that God was asking of Mary for the exceptional blessing of becoming the mother of the Son of God. Some of the things she had to deal with were:

  • Her loss of reputation;
  • Her desire for her husband;
  • Suspicion from Joseph;
  • The threat of divorce and death by stoning;
  • Misunderstanding from others;
  • Jealousy from other girls;
  • Questioning of her mental state.

The divine provision

God was overseeing His precious Son and sent an angel, separately, to Joseph. On hearing God's plan, he was willing to obey God and trust Him. He willingly laid down His own reputation to fulfil God’s purposes. As she rushed off to visit her aunt, Mary must have been wondering if the events of the last few days were real. Elizabeth's greeting would have strengthened her faith. Mary's pregnancy may have seemed impossible, but her wise old aunt believed and rejoiced in it.

“Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” (Luke 1:45)

Personal vision

It is so important that we, too, have a vision. Here we see eight steps to the birth of a vision for us:

  1. A time of decision
  2. Intimacy
  3. A time of conception and impossibility
  4. Stretching
  5. Preparation – study and discipline
  6. Patience
  7. Pain
  8. Joy of new birth.

What vision has God given to us? What stage are we at in bringing this to birth? (Proverbs 29:18) Whatever stage we're at, let's talk to the Father about what He wants us to do to grow our vision. If our vision is already alive, let's review His instructions to ensure that we are obeying the design He gave us. Have we been led astray for different reasons: disappointment, lack of funds or alternative proposals from strong people with us? Let's return to the original vision and seek God’s face for His way forward.

A song of thanks

Mary believed God and it caused her heart to well up with the most amazing song of love and praise to her heavenly Father, on whom she focused her attention. (Luke 1:46-55) She relates in her song what she has learned about God. He has enlarged her heart to take in the magnitude of what He is about to bring to pass through her. She sees that God is the champion of the poor, the oppressed and the despised. The child that was about to be born would be the Saviour of the world. (He would also be her Saviour, because she too was a sinner born to natural, human parents.) Mary understood that people would call her "blessed" throughout future generations, not because of who she was, but because of what God had done through her. The great, Almighty God had chosen her, even though she felt so unworthy, with nothing to offer but a heart of gratitude and praise.

A difficult birth

There was nothing royal about the birth. It took place in a cave for farm animals, just outside Bethlehem. Mary was a long way from home, after a very difficult journey, and could not even find a decent crib for the birth of her baby, the Son of God. (Luke 2:7) The unexpected appearance of the shepherds must have encouraged Mary so much. (Luke 2:8) Later, when Jesus was presentated in the temple, the words from Simeon and Anna were so amazing and daunting. (Luke 2:21) Then they were overtaken once again by events. The Roman census had required them to travel far from home, just when the baby was due. Now they had to flee to Egypt for the safety of the baby, because king Herod had learned about the baby's birth as "the King of the Jews" and was trying to kill Him off by murdering all the two-year old boys in that part of the country. Mary must have been desperate when she knew that other babies were being butchered because of her Son. As a new mother herself, she easily identified with the pain of other mothers.

We can see the activity of the enemy - Satan - behind these events, determined to frustrate and destroy God's vision and plans. We can expect a similar reaction to our own vision and plans when God has inspired them. Our vision is our baby, so we must protect it and not allow it to be stolen or destroyed.

A happy childhood

“His mother treasured all these things in her heart.” (Luke 2:51)

Ten years passed, during which king Herod died and Joseph & Mary returned from Egypt to Nazareth, where Mary had grown up. Jesus grew up there and became strong, full of wisdom and with God’s grace upon Him, (Luke 2:40) Mary had other children: James, Joseph, Judas, Simon and daughters. (Matthew 13:55-56) During this time of babies and a busy household, Mary must have kept the promises of God in the forefront of her thoughts. She must have prayed as she busied herself with the children, often wondering how it was all going to work out. She must have guarded herself against favouritism as she kept God and His ways in the centre of all she did. As a result, Jesus was able to grow in grace, wisdom and favour with God and the local community. (Luke 2:52) When they made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem and the twelve-year-old Jesus disappeared for three days, so many thoughts must have gone through Mary’s head. After they found Him and told Him off, His response must have brought her up short and reminded her of Simeon’s words. Jesus had begun to take a stand that would eventually end in Him fulfilling His destiny for the world.

Taking a back seat

The time came when Jesus set out as a travelling preacher and teacher and Mary seems to have been happy to take second place, making herself available to help her son, as and when He needed her. She recognises that His time has come and is content to point others towards Him: “Do whatever He tells you.” (John 2:5) Mary herself continued to grow in her trust of God and His word, even as she experienced more of the "sword" in her life, which went hand-in-hand with God's favour. Mary must have found it hard that Jesus’ brothers didn’t believe in Him (John 7:3-5) and this caused division. (Matthew 12:46-50) At the same time, she recognised the need for all people to put their faith in Him, knowing that no one could have eternal life in any other way, whether it was herself, her family, or the neighbours back in Nazareth who had rejected Him. (John 14:6; Luke 4:16-30)

Mary’s suffering reached a climax at her son's execution by the Romans, but she stayed near Him to the end. She must have been so blessed when Jesus, even through His devastating pain, thought of her and made arrangements for John to provide for her. (John 19:26, 27) She was able to hold on because, as a young teenager, she had declared: “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as You have said.” She considered that how she felt was of secondary importance to God’s will in the world. After Jesus’ death, she didn’t give in to grief but committed herself, along with many others including her other sons, to prayer. (Acts 1:9-14) Mary was also present on the "Day of Pentecost". (Acts 2:1) She must have been so encouraged as she saw the fruit of her Son’s work in lives changed, healings and miracles. We can react to our problems in the same way as Mary did, holding on to God’s promises and remembering that trials are only temporary; everything is working towards a bigger purpose. She proved with her life that she hadn’t changed her attitude towards God. She meant what she said! Let us too resolve that our "Yes" will be "Yes" and our "No" will be "No"! (Matthew 5:37)

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