It first happened as she gathered herbs for supper in the garden one afternoon. Straightening up, she felt a tiny, fluttering sensation in her abdomen. Her heartbeat quickened.
It’s just as the angel said. I’ve never known a man, yet I carry a child—THE Child.
(What are the implications of this oft-re-told story for you and your ministry? Read on.)
The heavenly visitor’s appearance a few months earlier had unnerved Mary. His powerful presence frightened her, and his words shook her to the core.
“Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Who? Me? What could this possibly mean?
Gabriel continues. “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.” He explains she has been chosen to bear the Son of the Most High, whose kingdom would have no end.
Mary blurts out, “But how? I’m a virgin!”
Gabriel explains that the Holy Spirit will come upon Mary, and His power will overshadow her to conceive a child supernaturally. He tells her about her cousin Elizabeth’s miraculous pregnancy, concluding with, “No word of God will ever fail.”
Just a few verses earlier in the first chapter of Luke, Gabriel delivers a similar, although somewhat less fantastic, announcement to Zechariah: The old priest will have a son whom he is to name John.
Zechariah wants to know, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man, and my wife is well along in years.”
Oi. We should be so lucky!
For his lack of faith, Zechariah is struck dumb until the birth of his son. Now it’s Mary’s moment. Unlike Zechariah, her answer does not reveal doubt, but faith.
“I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.”
Stop for a moment and consider the weight of Mary’s response.
At a singular moment in history, the arch-angel Gabriel makes a stunning announcement to an unsuspecting young Jewish girl that the Holy One has chosen her, out of all women, to be the mother of His Son.
What implications did God’s favor have for Mary?
I put it this way here:
“If anyone had reason for hesitating to do God’s will, it was Mary. She became pregnant out of wedlock in a time and culture where she stood to lose everything—her reputation, her fiancé, even her life. The angel Gabriel’s announcement didn’t exactly invite Mary into a life of ease or glamour.”
In ancient times—dangerous times for women—who would have believed a betrothed girl’s tale about God getting her pregnant? Mary would be chewed to bits in the jaws of the gossip-mongers—or far worse. Her future as God’s chosen vessel appears bleak.
Still, Mary not only says yes to God—she echoes the prophetic song of praise sung by Hannah, mother of the prophet Samuel:
“My soul glorifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his 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 1:46-49
A remarkable response. An eternal perspective. Mary knows something about the favor of God. She understands what it means—and what it doesn’t mean.
When it comes to the favor of God, I want a Mary attitude. You, too?
Here’s the problem: Given our Western lifestyle of relative ease, we tend to equate favor and blessing with worldly ideas of promotion and success.
We think favor and blessing means obtaining more comforts and pleasures along with greater accolades from others. We assume it means less hardship and trouble.
This contradicts what the apostle Paul writes,
“For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings.” - 1 Corinthians 4:9
Paul goes on to describe the brutal treatment he and the other apostles must endure—hunger, hard work, homelessness, and on top of that, insults. In his second letter to the Corinthians, he references Psalm 68:18:
“But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.” - 2 Corinthians 2:14
What Paul is driving at, and what Mary understood, is the favor of God does not necessarily manifest itself the way we might think. Instead of enjoying a lofty position on the pedestals of this earth, we are led and displayed as captives in the procession of our victorious King.
The glory goes to Him—while we may have to endure humiliation and pain.
When Gabriel brought his message, Mary could not have known the depths of suffering she would have to endure as a result of her “yes” to God.
Before she saw her beloved Son after His resurrection, a sword pierced her soul as she watched Him writhe in agony while suffocating on a cruel Roman cross.
God’s favor often comes at great cost.
There’s good news, though. Like everything about our earthly life, this downside of God’s favor only lasts a short season.
The fullness of His blessing, on the other hand, lasts forever.
Maybe there’s a sword piercing your soul right now. Maybe you feel like a fool, paraded in front of everyone. Maybe you weren’t quite prepared for the intensity of the ministry trials you face.
May I encourage you?
Mary did not have an easy life, but consider what her willingness accomplished. Think of her joy now.
Tweet This: May I encourage you? Mary did not have an easy life, but consider what her willingness accomplished. Think of her joy now. @SusanneMaynes
Remember Whose favor matters most. Call to mind His great faithfulness on your behalf. Choose to sing a song of praise to the Mighty One who has done great things for you.
His name is holy. He is with you. And His word will never fail.