The focus revolved around Mary this evening. Her life’s crowning achievement centers around Jesus and her willingness to be used by God in a very unique way. For a few moments, I would like to give my synopsis of her story perhaps in a way that hasn’t been considered.
We don’t know how the age of Mary – perhaps between the age of 12 and 15. As a Jewish girl, Mary went to school up until the sixth grade (what we would consider primary school). She would learn the basics of the Torah and the wisdom literature. She would learn songs, hymns and spiritual songs to teach the children she would eventually birth. By 14 or so, Mary would return to the home and learn the basics of home life. She would learn how to cook and keep house. During that time, she would also find herself being placed in a marriage agreement. The fathers would get together and agree that one’s son and one’s daughter should unite in marriage. Marriage wasn’t an issue of love as it was of duty and of one’s lineage.
Unlike our traditions of “falling in love,” Mary was betrothed – or positioned to marry – Joseph who was a carpenter by trade. Being a carpenter in that time most likely meant you worked with stone, since wood was not readily available during that time in that place. There was however, a lot of stone to work. He was probably a lot older – maybe 30 or so. Having added an addition to his father’s house, Joseph was preparing for marriage. For 30 years, Joseph remained pure and upright before God and his community.
Everything was fine until an angel showed up. When an angel shows up, something always happens. They never just show up and say hi. Something big will be announced or something significant will occur. For Mary, she has no clue.
“The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”” – Luke 1: 28.
If an angel showed up and spoke to me, I would probably fall on my face and begin announcing all my sins I had committed earlier that day. I probably would have had to change my pants as well. Here’s a young girl face-to-face with an angel from heaven and, at least to our knowledge, remains still and even perhaps curious about why this angel has come to visit her.
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says, “I am with you, even until the end of the age.” Here the angel says that the Lord is with her. I wonder if she really understood the significance of that statement.
“Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.” – Luke 1: 29-31.
She doesn’t seem to be afraid of the angel but his words – his greeting frightens her. Have you ever had someone say something really nice to you and you wonder what is coming next? It always seems like someone has to say something really nice first before they dump some really bad news on you. If I were in her situation, I would probably be in the same boat. Even after the angel says, “Do not be afraid,” I would still be afraid.
The next phrase must have floored her. “You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.” Here is a 12-15 year-old-girl who is a virgin – no sex – and she is going to conceive a son. No matter what the angel said after that, I would have been unable to shake that from my mind. I remember when I was told my buddy, Mike died. When the words, “Mike died” came out of someone’s mouth, everything they said after that seemed to fade into the background. I couldn’t shake that moment. I couldn’t shake those words. For the interest of time, we will look at the Messianic phrases next time. I want to jump to Mary’s response in light of what I just wrote. Her response is, “How can this be, since I have not been with a man?” Do you see how she most likely heard nothing beyond the angel’s first statement about bearing a son? It only seems to make sense that her mind was filled with a lot of questions regarding this one statement.
The angel’s is unreal: “The angel answered, “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. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”” – Luke 1: 35-37.
The Holy Spirit is going to indwell her and His power is going to overshadow her. That’s helpful. Honestly. If that is the kind of response I was given to a situation like that, I am not sure I would accept it with open arms. I would want a little more explanation to the equation. Last time I checked, a sperm and an egg were needed to conceive a child. If there were no sperm, how would it all work out? The angel’s response is clear – nothing is impossible with God.
Then there is this business of her cousin, Elizabeth who was “old.” I find that term interesting here for a variety of reasons. I won’t go through them all but I want to consider two things: Elizabeth’s husband is Zachariah. He is the mute guy earlier in the story. He is still serving in the Temple (significant). Leviticus Law said that a priest, after he was 50, would stop his priestly duties and spend the rest of his life training the younger guys to take over when he passed on. So, since Zachariah is still serving, he has to be fewer than 50. Since life expectancy was not what it is today, his age would play a significant role. Supposing he is about 45 (just a guess of age), that would make Elizabeth around 27-30 (if she was about 12-15 when she married). She is considered old at 30! She is with a child though – being six months pregnant. Nothing is impossible with God.
Mary’s final words were, “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “Let it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.” – Luke 1:38.
Mary accepts her fate. She seems very proactive in this choice. She accepts the position as the Lord’s servant and realizes that it will be a challenge to explain all of this to Joseph.
In my mind, I have to believe she shared all she experienced with Joseph before she went to see Elizabeth for three months. Maybe Joseph didn’t believe her. Maybe he did. We will look at Joseph later. All I want to say is this: Joseph might have had to consider his choice to marry Mary or have her stoned for three months. He might have had to go back and forth through every option. Since she wasn’t around, no one had to know yet. He could consider all the options without her being around – she wouldn’t start showing for a little while anyway. He had some time to figure out what he was going to do. As I said though, we will get to him later.
For now, in closing, I think Mary sometimes gets the bad end of the stick. We will see in a later post that she was quite smart. She understood the ramifications – at least in some degree – for carrying Jesus. What I find quite interesting is that Mary carried God in the flesh – and, at the cross, God carried Mary’s flesh. Just something to think about…