The story of Mary can be found throughout the gospels; therefore, I will not recall the whole story here but will reference the places in Scripture that is relevant for our discussion.
Lessons from Mary’s story
God can use anyone for his purpose
This theme is a golden thread throughout the women we met this week. God can use a poor orphan girl and make her a queen to save his people; he can use a pagan Moabite widow to ensure the lineage of David continues; he can even use a Canaanite prostitute to be instrumental in securing the promised land for his people, and he can use a barren woman to be the mother of his greatest prophet.
But, perhaps the most significant of all, God can use a young, poor Jewish virgin girl from a one-donkey town like Nazareth to be the mother of his only begotten Son (Luke 1:26-27). Scholars estimate that Mary was a mere 13 years old and she was betrothed to Joseph. Both parents were from the lineage of David which is crucial for the fulfilment of the prophecy. Gabriel told her that “the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,” (Luke 1:32). See also Jeremiah 23:5-6.
Many scholars have questioned whether Mary was really a virgin, yet her virginity was emphasized the most by Luke in his gospel. Luke was a doctor so he would have known the biology of where babies come from. The virgin conception would have been the most difficult for him to believe, but he got his account of Jesus’ birth directly from Mary herself. As Christians, we should also have no doubt that God can make a virgin conception happen “for nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). The virgin birth is important for two reasons. Firstly, it was imperative for the fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14 “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sigh. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Secondly, It was crucial that Jesus was born from a virgin because Jesus was holy at birth without inherited sin and he could remain sinless so he could take on our sins at the cross. In this way, Jesus could be fully human and fully divine.
Mary trusted in the power of God
When Mary receives the prophecy from the angel Gabriel, she did not doubt what God could do, but she enquired how he was going to do it since she was a virgin. When the angel explained to her that the Holy Spirit will come over her (Luke 1:35) she could accept it and answer “may everything you have said about me come true” (Luke 1:38).
This is in stark contrast to the response we see from Sarah in Genesis 18:13-14 when she laughed at the Lord when he tells Abraham they will have a child within the year. In response, God answers “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” Similarly, Zechariah as a priest in the Tabernacle, could not accept the angel’s prophecy that Elizabeth will have a son that will prepare the way for the Lord (Luke 1:5-24). As a result, he was speechless until John the Baptist was born.
Mary must have known that she would risk disaster by having a child out of wedlock and could have been rejected by society. Most importantly, she could have been rejected by her fiancé’ Joseph which would have left her desperate and homeless. Mary did not know how God was going to carry her through this time, but she trusted that he would take care of her. Because of her faith, Elizabeth could bless Mary with the words “blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord,” (Luke 1:45).
Mary is a beautiful example of trusting the Lord in all circumstances. She was in a desperate situation but could still believe that God would work anything out for her good. Can we say the same? We don’t have to raise the Son of God and God would not ask us to suffer the same devastation that Mary had to endure, but we should have faith in God to carry through whatever he allows in our lives.
Mary believed in the mission of Jesus Christ
When Jesus was approximately eight days old, Joseph and Mary took him to the temple to undergo the Jewish rites as was the custom. At the temple, they were met by Simeon, a righteous and devout man waiting for the fulfilment of the coming of the Messiah before the end of his life (Luke2:25-26). Imagine Mary carrying her infant son in her arms, still smitten with this new gift, and then being told by Simeon “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and will for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul),” (Luke 2:34-35). This must have been the first time Mary realizes that being the mother of the Son of God would be a blessed yet devastating journey for her.
Later, as a grown man, Jesus finds himself with his mother at a wedding in Cana (John 2:1-12). The host of the wedding ran out of wine and Mary tells Jesus simply “they have no wine.” Mary didn’t know what Jesus would do, but she trusted that he could help. Jesus told her in verse 4 “what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” Mary did not tell Jesus how to fix the situation but only encouraged his disciples to do whatever he tells them. Jesus turns the water into such good wine that the host is embarrassed for serving the lower-quality wine first.
Do we similarly bring our problems to Jesus without telling him how to handle it? We should submit all our requests to him but trust him to perform a miracle as he knows best.
Mary knew Jesus had to die for her sins
In Luke 1:46-55 we read Mary’s song of praise, also known as the Magnificat. Already at this early stage, right after she becomes pregnant, she “rejoices in God my Saviour” (Luke 1:47). Mary was the only person present at Jesus’ birth and death on the cross. It is almost impossible to imagine how much agony would have pierced her heart. Her Son was dying on the cross for something he did not do, but he was also dying to bear her sins so she could be saved.
Even on the cross while in anguish Jesus would take care of Mary by asking John to take care of her. This must have made Mary very proud and grateful because without a son to take care of her she would have been destitute.
I wonder if Mary would have accepted her calling from God if she knew the eventual outcome. That is probably true for most of us. Sometimes the Lord calls us to do the hard things (although nothing could compare to Mary’s mission) and he expects us to answer that call, without knowing how he will help us through it or what suffering we will have to endure. Most of the time it is for our own sanity that we can’t see the whole picture. Yet we trust that God knows best and that he will carry us through no matter what we must endure.
Mary remained faithful until the end
The final testament to Mary’s faithfulness to Jesus can be found in Acts 1:14 where she is found after Jesus’ ascension with his Apostles. Here they are eagerly awaiting the pouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. Her devotion to God did not end at the cross, or even after Jesus’ resurrection, but continued until the end of her life.
How often do we not allow circumstances to remove us from God? The cross feels too heavy to bear and we conclude that our Heavenly Father has forsaken us. In these dark moments, it is important to remember that our Saviour wants nothing more than to spend eternity with us. He uses these times of wrestling to shape us into His image so we can be with him for time and all eternity where “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things, have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
How is Mary’s example for you in your walk in your relationship with Jesus?
This post was part of a Bible Study series that I wrote to connect with my friends during the COVID-19 lockdown.
I am not a pastor, nor do I have theological training. I am a follower of Jesus and the daughter of my Heavenly Father that enjoys studying and discussing Scripture with others.
The resources I used for this study are listed below.
All colour illustrations are from www.jw.org