Considered Common By Man, Uncommon By God
Mary was a Galilean, which meant she was just a country girl in the eyes of most people. We know this because when the priests found out that Jesus was from Galilee, they used that as a means to discredit him (John 7:52). If a man who was considered a Rabbi at the time could be treated in such a way, what chance did a teenage girl have of making something of herself?
However, God sent his special messenger angel to her and declared to her that she had found favor in his sight (Luke 1:26-28). God sent the message that she was blessed among women and that God was with her. These are some amazing monikers to give to a common girl. God saw Mary's righteousness. He recognized that she was devoted to Him and had lived her life upright before Him. Let's break down those descriptions given to Mary:
Highly Favored: Means to be compassed and endued with grace. Mary lived for God both in her outward actions and lifestyle as well as her inward thoughts and core beliefs. She was sold out to God through and through.
With Thee: This phrasing is used a few times but we will highlight two. In Judges, it is used when an angel addresses Gideon. He was a young man seen as an afterthought who would go on to do great things, including lead Israel to one of the most improbable victories in history. In Acts, God speaks to Paul to reassure him that He would be with him and to continue the work God had set before him.
Blessed Among Women: This meant that before all other women, God considered her and was ready to make her to prosper and find happiness in His Kingdom. Proverbs 31 tells us that a woman finds this kind of favor when she fears-or respects and honors-God. The only other woman specifically mentioned as receiving this honor was Jael. She was a Kenite woman, outside the covenant with God, but who did the will of God in helping Israel find freedom.
With this in context we can begin to see what drew God to Mary. She was someone who lived for God inside and out. People could see her actions and hear her words and know she loved God. However, God could see the inner workings of her heart, the secret places no man knew, and He could discern her true intentions and passions. She loved Him.
Mary was someone God believed in just as He believed in Gideon and Paul. Those two men both were looked on with skepticism by others, but God knew they had a greater purpose. He could see the value they brought to the table and the devotion they would give Him. What Mary was going to be asked to do would take complete devotion and commitment. God trusted her to follow through.
Mary was someone who respected and honored God with her lifestyle and her thoughts. We see that when she reacts to the angel Gabriel. He had to tell her to Fear not. She knew that she was facing a messenger from Heaven and was already in a position of respect and honor to receive it. Others may have puffed out their chest or started to consider their value when told all the wonderful things from verse 28. However, Mary was filled with awe and wonder that God would consider her. That's a sign of humility and humble people are the type of people God loves to use.
Mary was told that she would be blessed to carry the Messiah. She didn't understand how that was possible as she was a virgin, but accepted it when the plan was explained (Luke 1:34-38). She had a willing heart and open life to what God asked of her. Moreover, she did it as a servant. She called herself a handmaid not a queen or leader. She knew who was the Master.
The task was not an easy one, though. She would be ridiculed and scrutinized by those who did not believe her. She even had to uproot her life and go live with the only relatives who would accept and believe her (v. 39). We mentioned in our profile on Joseph in the Matthew section of this series that her own fiancee did not believe her at first. It took an angel in a dream for him to be convinced. With the relatives she moved in with, it took the Holy Ghost moving on one of them before they realized her story was true. Giving up your reputation and having to live in solitude is rough for anyone, but especially a teenager who is still trying to figure all of life out. Mary took it on, though, and she did it with a praise in her heart.
Her task wasn't done at conception, though. She would have to travel all the way to Bethlehem to give birth to Jesus because of a tax decree from Caesar. traveling for any amount of time when you are days away from birth is miserable. Imagine doing it for days atop a donkey. Not only did she suffer discomfort but also humiliation as she had to give birth in a stable. It couldn't have been the picture she saw for herself 9 months prior. She was about to marry a successful and good man. She had a good reputation and was respected by those around her. Now, she was sleeping in a barn and considered an outcast. However, the baby she held in her hands was worth it to her. She did not lament or question her calling. She took it on and gave God the glory.
Beyond What She Thought
Mary's task was not done, though. She raised Jesus to be a good man. She was willing to let him go to fulfill his task when it would have been easy to hold on tight to her firstborn son. In letting him go, there were times where she wasn't able to see him because of his ministry. This wasn't just out of inconvenience but because Jesus gave himself to his ministry above time with her. Any other mother may have gotten offended or felt rejected, but Mary did not. She continued to follow along after Christ, resigned to be in the background.
Not getting to be around her son wasn't the worst of it for Mary, though. She had to watch as he was beaten, scourged and crucified. She sat at the cross as he bled out, unwilling to leave her son to die alone. Surely she had to ponder the guarantee Gabriel had given her:
He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. (v.32-33).
How could this prophecy be true now? Nevertheless, she stayed true to him. She was there when they discovered the tomb was empty. She would see her son walk the earth again for 40 days and witness his ascension into heaven. She remained devoted beyond that and was there when His Spirit returned to earth and filled all of them in the upper room. She received Her Son-this time in Spirit form-back into her. She stayed true and her reward was greater than anything she could imagine all those years before.
We may think we are just common people, but God has great things planned for each of us. When we choose to live a righteous life inside and out, he will send us a message some way to reveal that great plan. If we receive it with humility and respect, we will take on the burden of the Almighty. To those around us, it may not make sense and might seem to tough. Others may make fun of us or misunderstand what is happening because they look through fleshly eyes. The road may be uncomfortable at times and some of the destinations may not make sense. We may even feel like an afterthought when God does start to do mighty things as a result of us birthing this plan. However, if we stick through it with God, we will see His greatness revealed and witness the power and authority that He desires unleashed on our lives and communities. We'll look back at the journey just as Mary did and know it was worth it.
Chris Farris is the author of The Way, a manual detailing how to implement the Beatitudes into your life. He review events and other media and offers other insights into writing and working for the Kingdom of God.