The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” (Luke 1:27,28)
Mary has been admired universally above all women. She was truly remarkable. Sovereignly chosen by God to bear the Christ child, from among all of the women who had ever been born, she was the one who brought our Redeemer, the Messiah into the world.
Many have made a superhuman of Mary. She was given much grace and a remarkable privilege. But we must be careful not to elevate her too much. Her blessings and graces were given to her by God. She was an ordinary human being, like us. And yet, she showed her strong faith in God, by trusting Him with whatever He chose for her. We can look up to her for that.
We don’t know very much about Mary’s upbringing. We know that she had a sister, Salome, who was the mother of Jesus’ disciples, James and John. Salome was also a devoted follower of Jesus and was there at the cross with Mary when He was crucified. Of course, we also know that she was related to Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist. Besides this, we only know that she grew up in Nazareth as the daughter of a poor but hardworking family.
At the time of the Annunciation, Mary was probably a teenager. Back in that day, girls were often betrothed at age thirteen. Her marriage was probably arranged by the parents of Joseph, her prospective bridegroom. Joseph was a carpenter. He was also a godly and righteous man.
In those days a betrothal was as legally binding as a marriage. In fact, if a betrothal was broken by one of the parties, through infidelity for instance, there had to be a divorce proceeding. There were two ways to get the divorce, a public trial, which would have been very humiliating for Mary, or a quiet proceeding. In the quiet proceeding, the wronged party could get two witnesses to sign a release with him and send the other party away. In Joseph’s case, he thought that he would just send Mary somewhere to have her child secretly and avoid disgrace. We know that an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, and then he knew that everything was all right. This was God’s plan. And so he willingly took his part as husband and earthly father of Jesus.
Mary must have known what could happen to her when Joseph found out that she was pregnant. She knew that the horror of public scandal might await her. But she trusted God to take care of her. She surrendered herself unconditionally saying, “Behold, the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) Mary did not doubt or question God. She just immediately, humbly, and joyfully submitted to God’s will.
Mary was not just praising God for her own part in God’s plan. The meaning of her pregnancy was that the longed-for Messiah was finally coming to Israel. This was cause for everyone to rejoice. When she visited her relative, Elizabeth, this godly cousin also rejoiced that now the things that God had promised since the beginning, were finally being fulfilled. Christ was finally coming!!
Then, in the Scriptures we have one of the most beautiful prayers ever recorded. It will remind us of the Psalms in the Old Testament. In it, Mary praises God for His splendor and power and mercy and holiness. God is the One Who did great things for her. This song is about God’s greatness, His glory, the strength of His arm, and His faithfulness across the generations.
My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
For He who is mighty has done great things for me,
And holy is His name.
And His mercy is on those who fear Him
From generation to generation.
He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty form their thrones,
And exalted the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich He has sent away empty.
He has helped His servant Israel,
In remembrance of His mercy,
As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and to his seed forever. (Luke 1:46-55)
Mary’s worship was clearly from her heart. She was grateful to God for the things that He had done for her and for all of Israel. She was humble and amazed that God would do such remarkable things through her, a lowly and undeserving handmaid. Yet, she still rejoiced with all her heart.
This wonderful, joyful blessing would also be the cause of much sorrow and a broken heart later in her life. Though she had a wonderful relationship with her Son, and followed Him all of her life, she knew that the day would come when He would have to fulfill the purpose for His coming to earth. Simeon had told Mary of Jesus’ death when she and Joseph took Jesus to the temple for His circumcision. Jesus Himself spoke of His own death often.
Finally the day came. We can only imagine the wound that pierced her heart as she watched the soldiers thrusting a sword through Jesus’ body on the cross. She stood bravely and quietly by at the cross while others were screaming wicked taunts and insults at Him. She knew the injustice that was being done. She must have also been sorrowful at the thought that here was the Savior, on the cross for their sins. They did not know it. This only added to her own anguish and grief at the horrible sight of her dying Son. Yet, she stayed, silent and sorrowful. Others would have fled in fear and terror. Many might have fainted at the sight of the horrible suffering of the Messiah. But, Mary remained. She gave Him the support of her love by being near to Him until the very end.
Jesus also showed His love for His mother in His final moments. Though He carried the weight of the sins of the whole world on his shoulders, He took out time to provide for her support. He gave her into the care of the disciple, John. Mary would be cared for the rest of her life.
Mary was no ordinary mother. Most mothers are involved in training their children to grow up and follow the Lord. But, Jesus is the Lord. Mary understood this and nurtured Jesus as a child while worshiping Him as her Savior.
She clearly had received grace from God for this. She was an ordinary woman who had been given extraordinary blessings by God. She is a woman to emulate. But, let us be careful not to give her the adulation that only belongs to God. Mary herself was very humble and would not want anyone to venerate her as some do today. She would point us to Christ. He was the object of her worship. He is the One we adore. He is the only One to recognize as Lord and Savior. All of her life she was an example, pointing us to loving God and praising Him for His many blessings to us.