Luke 1:35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[e] will be called holy—the Son of God… 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant[f] of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (English Standard Version)
Right in the middle of Luke Chapter 1 (verses 26-38) we are introduced to the remarkable young woman, Mary of Nazareth, who is to become the mother of the Savior of the world. We can’t help but be impressed by her faith and willingness to be obedient to God, despite the fact that much of her encounter with the angel, Gabriel, probably made little sense to her at all.
While I believe that many Roman Catholics overstate Mary’s importance and role in God’s plan of redemption, I believe that many non-Catholics underestimate her. I find her faith and obedience to be on the same level as some of the other great heroes of the Bible, like Abraham, Joseph, Daniel and Ezekiel who were asked to make great sacrifices of faith and were blessed because of their obedience.
Mary is probably somewhere between 14 and 20 years old when Gabriel visits her. For the sake of argument, let’s make her 17. She comes from a tiny, backwater town in the most remote province in the nation. She is from the tribe of Judah, is engaged to a Carpenter named Joseph, also from Judah, and she is related, probably through her Mother’s family, to an elderly woman called, Elizabeth who is from the priestly line of Levi and is married to a priest, Zechariah (this will all be important later in our study, so take note). That, my friends, is pretty much all we know about Mary at this point. We are about to learn, though, that this teenage hick from the sticks, is one of the all-time great heroes of faith.
As an aside, I believe that Mary was one of the original sources Luke uses in his research. The first several chapters of the book, and then again some of the very personal information near the end, sound like they come from Mary’s perspective. If she was a middle teen when she the events of chapter 1 occurred, she would have been in her mid-seventies at the time Luke wrote his Gospel.
Alternatively, the source could easily be one of her other sons. After all, two of her sons, James and Jude, were leaders in the early Church and even wrote books of the Bible. They were not much younger than Jesus and would easily remember Mom’s stories about their older brother.
But I digress. Let’s go back to Mary’s chat with Gabriel and see the signs of her great faith. Let’s start with the fact that Gabriel greets her by calling her the ‘favored one’ (verse 28). Luke writes that this ‘troubled’ her. She’s probably thinking, “I’m sorry Mr. Angel, but you have reached the wrong number. You are in Nazareth; you are probably looking for another Mary, maybe in Jerusalem. Mary’s a common name, it’s a mistake easily made. No harm. No foul. Enjoy the rest of your day and good luck finding that other girl.”
She’s also likely scared out of her mind. I don’t know whether or not you know this, but Angels appearing to teenage girls in Nazareth was not an everyday occurrence. In fact, the last time it happened was…NEVER!
In a fascinating case of irony, after assuring Mary she doesn’t need to be afraid, Gabriel gives her a message that was sure enough going to scare the daylights out of her. He tells her that she is going to have a baby. This baby is going to be extraordinary. He is going to be the long awaited Messiah and savior of the human race. Gabriel even tells Mary that God has picked out the boy’s name, “Jesus.”
Put yourself in Mary’s position for a few moments. Can you even imagine all the thoughts and emotions that must have been running through her? “Me? Who am I? I am just a girl from Nazareth. Saviors don’t come from people like me.”
Her one vocalized question is insightful. It does not come from doubt, but logic. Mary asks, “How can this be since I am a virgin?” You see, she might come from Hicksville, but even in Nazareth they knew where babies came from. And Mary knew she was not, nor had ever been, sexually active.
At this point, Gabriel reassures her, that little things like biology are not a problem for God. The One who formed the universe and created the human race would have no trouble suspending the laws of nature and normal reproduction. This Jesus would be a ‘miracle baby’ in every sense of the word.
Oh the thoughts that must have run through Mary’s mind, when she heard the angel’s message. “No one will believe this. No one.”
The town gossips would be one thing. In a small town things like pregnancies would not go unnoticed. Of course, she wouldn’t be the first girl who ever turned up pregnant during her engagement. Under normal circumstances, she and Joseph could just get married, leave town and let the tongues wag behind them. In a new city, they could start over and no one would be the wiser.
These, though, were not normal circumstances, and Joseph was the problem. Regardless of what the town busybodies would think, Joseph would know this was not his child. Of all the people in the world, he was the one who would be certain of the fact that he and Mary had not been together. It was in his power to have her stoned to death as an adulteress. Her life was literally in Joseph’s hands. If he did not believe her, she was as good as dead.
So here she is, being told she was to return home and tell as farfetched a tale as had been ever heard in Galilee. Her very life is in the balance. What could she say? What would you say? What would I say?
Mary somehow reached down into a place of faith most of us never go and replies, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be to me according to your word” (verse 38).
Wow! Mary doesn’t keep testing the message, like Gideon did. She doesn’t try to talk God out of the plan, like Moses did. She doesn’t try to hide like Saul did when he was chosen to be king. On the contrary, Mary takes the path of Abraham, when he is asked to sacrifice Isaac. She follows in the footsteps of Daniel who, when forbidden by the King to pray, goes straight home and has a prayer meeting. Mary says, as John Lennon and Paul McCartney would paraphrase some 1970 years later or so, “Let it be.”
God is still using ordinary people from backwater towns and He is using celebrities with high profile platforms to do remarkable things to change the world. In fact, He would love to use YOU. Oh, you won’t be giving birth to Messiah, but you can heal a hurt. You can feed a hungry mouth or embrace a broken soul. There is much He can do through you. He’s just waiting for you and me to say, “Let it be.”