In this article by Joel Mennie, Joel talks about Mary's obedience. He challenges the reader to use the season of advent to follow in the footsteps of Mary and to know the presence and favour of the Lord.
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Joel Mennie writes...
I don’t know if you have ever seen the film “there’s something about Mary”? Produced in 1998, it’s your usual desperate guy falls in love with high-school-unobtainable-dream-girl, and despite a series of epic disasters on his part to get her to fall in love with him, after many years, she finally relents and they live happily ever after...you know the kind of story? Well, I’m not talking about that Mary!
As we enter the season of advent I want us to begin by focussing on a different Mary; the mother of Jesus.
Luke the Story teller
I’m a big fan of the apostle Luke’s writing. Luke is a great story teller and both his gospel writings and his account of the early church in Acts keeps the reader gripped.
Luke begins his gospel by detailing the account of Jesus’ birth. You can just imagine Luke sitting Mary down, and with great excitement listening to her recalling the months leading up to her son’s birth, and asking her intriguing questions about the early years of her son’s life.
Mary begins her story by recalling that an angel named Gabriel, sent by God (Luke 1:26), visited her whilst she was home alone. The ensuing conversation is an incredible one (is it any surprise that Mary remembered word-for-word what was said?)!
Mary finds favour with God
On the surface we see Mary as a young lady going about her everyday business, waiting to be married. But then Gabriel begins by greeting Mary and informs her that she was “highly favoured by the Lord”. It’s worth stopping at this point to ask the question “why was Mary highly favoured by the Lord - what had Mary done to particularly earn the Lord’s favour? why did the Lord especially choose Mary?” “What was it about Mary?”
Gabriel continues “the Lord is with you”. In fear, and I’m sure slight embarrassment and totally humility, Mary tells Luke that she tried to discern what kind of greeting this was. Gabriel, seeing this heart attitude tells Mary not to be afraid, and again reinforces the primary point “You have found favour with God”. He goes on: (v. 31)“You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name 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 father David, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
Mary asks Gabriel: (v. 34) “how will this be, since I am a virgin?”. Again, it’s worth stopping here, this time to cross reference to Luke 1.18 where Zachariah asks Gabriel “how can I be sure of this [after being told that he and his wife were to conceive a son - the cousin of Jesus]? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” Gabriel here seems to become angry (v.19/20) and asserts the authority given to him by God and tells Zachariah that because he doubted, he was to become dumb until the birth of his son.
Mary and Zechariah - they both doubt, don't they?
On the surface it appears that Mary and Zechariah asked the same question; so why didn’t Gabriel become angry with Mary? Well, there a couple of reasons, perhaps. Firstly, Zachariah was a priest and was much older than Mary, and as such he should have known better. Secondly we must consider that Mary’s question was potentially not grounded in doubt, like that of Zechariah.
Notice how Mary asks “how will this be?” there is no doubt in her mind, this will happen, but she does want to know how? Mary asks a natural question to aid her understanding, and Gabriel replies with a supernatural answer which helps her to understand. Gabriel replies to Mary (v. 35) “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 called Holy - the Son of God...for nothing is impossible with God”.
Mary replied (v.36) “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
And then, Mary tells Luke, Gabriel left her.
So what is it about Mary?
There is something about Mary. An ability to see heaven’s perspective - a supernatural perspective. An ability to obey even when confronted with the impossible. An ability to trust despite it going against every human instinct, and despite the fact that she knew she could be outcast from the society and family that she called home.
Mary was clearly a very special girl (remember that she would have been a teen at the time of her birth). Mary was clearly in love with God and knew what it meant to be aligned to the will of God. How was this fostered within her? We probably can look to her parents - the grandparents of Jesus - to find the answer to this. As an aside it could be noted that Jesus’ grandparents probably had a lot do with his upbringing (given that Mary was probably about 14 when she gave birth to Jesus - 47 when Jesus died - Mary’s mother probably would have been about 30 years older than Jesus).
It was this faith, obedience and heavenly perspective that Mary carried with her throughout her life. From the first miracle that Jesus performed by turning water into wine, to His final miracle on the cross at Calvary and subsequent rising again and ascending into glory. It’s been commented that no parent should out-live their children and furthermore no grandparent should out-live their grandchildren. I wonder which of Jesus’ relatives were standing at the foot of the cross as He died?
We are provided with an insight, not only into Mary’s faith, but also to her heart. Mary was clearly a gentle and humble lady, a big thinker (Luke 2:19 “she pondered them in her heart”). Mary was also a lady who showed great wisdom and understanding. Mary was a worshipper and worship leader (Luke 1:46). Mary (literally) carried the presence of the Lord and ushered in the presence of the Lord to others (Luke 1:41). Mary was clearly outgoing and courageous. In John’s gospel we see Mary as being attentive to the voice of the Lord and assertive to His commands (John 2:5 “do whatever He commands”). But we also see Mary as vulnerable and aware of the enormity of the task of parenting Jesus - the Son of the Most High (Luke 3:48 "Son...I have been searching for you in great distress”).
There was something about Mary, something that “caught the eye” of the Lord.
An Advent challenge
Mary was a strong woman of faith, an obedient woman of faith. I pray that this advent we may all follow in her footsteps, and even when things seem beyond our natural understanding that we may trust in the supremacy of His supernatural authority. Just as with Mary, may we know the presence and favour of the Lord.