“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed.”   –Luke 1

Two thousand years after Christ was born of the virgin Mary, millions of Christians around the globe call Mary blessed, especially during the Christmas season. God loved Mary, and Mary loved God.

Five Ways God Loved Mary

One | God gave Mary the privilege of giving birth to the long-awaited Messiah

After the fall, God told Satan that the Seed of the woman would “bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”  This was the first promise in Scripture about the Messiah.  Every Jewish girl knew that the One who would defeat sin and Satan would be born among her people.

The angel announces to Mary that she is with child. Philippe de Chapaigne, 1644.
The angel announces to Mary that she is with child.
Philippe de Chapaigne, 1644.

One day, in the midst of ordinary everyday life, thousands of years after the initial promise, the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary.  In Luke 1, we read: “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!   Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus…Therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.”  God granted to Mary what all pious Jewish women desired—to be the mother of the long-awaited Messiah, the Son of God!

This astounding announcement from the angel Gabriel came to an unsuspecting Jewish girl who was quietly living her life, getting ready to be married.  Something that had never happened to another woman on this earth before was about to happen to her:  she was going to become pregnant without having had sexual relations.  And through this, one of the three most significant events in the history of the world was about to take place: the Incarnation!  God was going to become a man, in her womb. Look at how much God loved Mary!  He gave her the privilege of giving birth to the Son of God!

Two | God gave Mary a good and kind husband

 Joseph, the Carpenter. By Georges de la Tour, 1645
Joseph, the Carpenter.
By Georges de la Tour, 1645

Look again at how much God loved Mary!  He gave her a good and kind husband. From Scripture, we see that Joseph found out that Mary was pregnant before the angel told him about it.  He must have been incredulous.  How could his virtuous fiancée have done this?  He had been betrayed by the one he trusted, and he must have been hurt in the depths of his soul.  But he didn’t try to get revenge by hurting Mary back and by shaming her publicly.  The Bible shows that he wasn’t rash.  He thought about what he was going to do.  It says he was a just man, and he decided to put her away secretly so that he wouldn’t make a public scandal of her.  But then, the angel told
Joseph that Mary had not been unfaithful, and that he should go ahead and marry her.  Joseph believed God, he trusted God, and he obeyed God.  He married his pregnant fiancée.  He didn’t worry that it might look like he and Mary had not been pure before marriage.  He loved God more than his personal reputation.  Joseph and Mary were united in their love, trust, and obedience to God.  What a good home they must have provided for Jesus to grow up in!

Three | God gave Mary a trusted and understanding friend

Visitation, pour la Congrégation San Martino (1503)
Visitation, by Mariotto Albertinelli (1503)

Look at how much God loved Mary!  He gave her a friend who would understand this most unusual situation—her cousin, Elizabeth, who had been barren and now was pregnant in her old age.  Once Mary knew that she was pregnant, she went with haste—Scripture makes a point to say “with haste”— to a city in the hill country of Judah, to visit Elizabeth whom she obviously trusted.  Mary needed to be with a friend. Sometimes we can bear heavy things by ourselves, but sometimes we need help from Christian friends.  Don’t ever be afraid to share your needs because you think that you are the only one with such a unique situation.  Everyone has difficulties and problems.  Don’t hesitate to ask God to provide a special person to help you carry your trials, or with whom to share joys that can’t be public.  God was kind to Mary by providing an understanding friend with whom to share, and He will be kind towards you in your hour of need.

 

Four | God entrusted to Mary, a humble peasant girl, the glorious task of raising the Eternal Son of God

Imagine carrying this baby in your womb for nine months, and then raising a son who was all-boy—but who never sinned!  Mary’s joy from her relationship with Jesus was never marred by His sin.  She fed Him, rocked Him, clothed Him, saw Him get His first tooth and lose His first tooth, helped Him utter His first words, bandaged His scraped knees, watched Him laugh and cry, taught Him, listened to Him read His first sentence, delighted in His play with His brothers and sisters, watched Him grow out of his clothes, and observed Him sinlessly mature to manhood.

The Virgin and Child or The Madonna of the Book by Sandro Botticelli, 1480.
The Virgin and Child or The Madonna of the Book by Sandro Botticelli, 1480.

Later, she came to depend on Him as her first-born son.  Different references to Jesus in the Gospels show us that He went from being called “the carpenter’s son” to “the carpenter, the Son of Mary.” This shows us that Jesus learned His father’s trade, and when Joseph apparently died at an early age, Jesus took his place as the head of the family. We see how Mary counted on her son when we look at the wedding in Cana where Jesus turned water into wine.  It seems that Mary was involved in the reception.  When she ran into the problem of the wine running out, she went to Jesus and told Him what the problem was.  She didn’t ask Him to fix it; the text implies that she just knew her son would!  Mary had a close and easy and trusting relationship with her firstborn son Jesus.  What an amazing blessing to be the earthly mother of the Eternal Son of God!  Look at how much God loved Mary by bestowing this privilege on her!

But why Mary?  Did God choose her because she was someone special?   Was she a beautiful queen like Esther?  Was she the wife of an elder who sat in the gates?  Did God choose someone to raise His Son who was a proven mother about whom people said, “She’s got a model family of six children!”  Or was she a woman scholar like Condaleeza Rice?  Was she a businesswoman like Lydia in the book of Acts?   Was she the equivalent of one of today’s famous woman Bible teachers?   Was she the rabbi’s wife, the pastor’s wife?  No.  She was none of these things.

Mary was very young, according to the typical age of betrothal for first century Galilee. She was poor, as we see by the sacrifice she and Joseph offered at the temple when Jesus was about 1 1/2 months old—two doves, the prescribed offering of the poor.  She wasn’t from an important city, like Jerusalem or New York City or Seattle. She was in fact from such an insignificant town that Nathanael, in John 1, said, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” She was a humble peasant girl who was untried by life.  She was not great in the eyes of the world.

Look at how much God loved Mary!  He didn’t choose to bless her because of who she was, but because of who He is. The fingerprints of God’s grace are all over His choice of Mary, as they are all over His choice of us when He makes us His children.  He didn’t choose Mary because of special merit in her, but because He loved her.

Five | God the Son loved and honored Mary, His earthly mother, to the end.

Mary at the Cross. By Abegg-Stiftung, early 1400s.
Mary at the Cross.
By Abegg-Stiftung, early 1400s.

Look at how much God loved Mary at the end!  At the cross, Mary agonized with the love of an earthly mother.  She understood probably for the first time what Simeon meant when he said to her at Jesus’ dedication in the Temple:  “A sword will pierce through your own soul also.”   As God the Son died on the Cross, some of His last words were directed towards Mary. Though Jesus had prioritized his role as the Son of God, He did have the special love of an earthly son for Mary.  He looked down at her and said, “Woman, behold your son!”  Then He said to John, “Behold your mother!”  And from that hour John took her to his own home.  Jesus said only two things more after his words to and about his mother: “I thirst,” and then, “It is finished.”  God the Son honored his earthly mother during his last minutes on the Cross, and saw to it that she was taken care of.

FIVE WAYS MARY LOVED GOD

One | Mary embraced God’s plan for her.

Let’s change our focus now, and look at how much Mary loved God.  She must have been stunned at the announcement that the angel Gabriel made to her. This pregnancy and subsequent motherhood were going to upset her whole life!  Remember that she lived in a society where God’s standards about pre-marital purity were the accepted norm.  Mary adhered to them; she was engaged, but had not had sex with her fiancé.  And yet, she was going to be unmarried and pregnant!  As the righteous girl Scripture says she was, she hated sin. She could repeatedly say to others, “I didn’t do what you think!”—but the obvious would be undeniable. The proof was going to be visible as the baby grew within her.  Surely, she thought that she was going to be seen as a hypocritical sinner. Her engagement to Joseph was going to be wrecked. It is in this context that her words of response to the angel take on their priceless value. “Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord!  Let it be to me according to your word.” Though Mary was young and untried by life, her heart was right. She submitted to God and embraced his plan for her in spite of what people would think, in spite of what Joseph would think, in spite of it ruining her hopes for marriage.

Two | Mary responded to God with submission and obedience.

Her response to the angel was not incredulity, as was Sarah’s when God told her she would have a baby with Abraham.  Mary’s was simply and sincerely, “How? I have not known a man.” Her response was not like the one Moses gave to God when he said, “Choose someone else to go to Pharoah; I can’t talk in public.” Mary was not like Jonah, who ran in the opposite direction when God told him to go preach in Ninevah. She was not like Jacob who wrestled with an angel all night before he submitted to God.  Mary could have imitated these people and said, “But Lord, not me! I’m engaged.  A baby now will destroy my future. This would be too hard.”  No, this is not at all what Mary said to the Lord. Instead, the words from her heart are,  “Behold the maidservant of the Lord!  Let it be to me according to your word.”  Submission. Obedience.  Look at how much Mary loved God!

Three | Mary trusted God in the great trials that her great blessings brought.

Flight into Egypt. By Giotto, AD 1306.
Flight into Egypt.
By Giotto, AD 1306.

Look again at how much Mary loved God!  Watch her react to trials.  As is often the case, great blessing brought great trials. The blessing was huge: Mary was going to be the earthly mother of Jesus!  But with this amazing joy, there was surely the accompanying tarnished reputation.  And then there was a census announced right when she  was ready to give birth, which meant a ride on a donkey all the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem—an eighty-mile journey.  Imagine being heavily pregnant, ready to give birth—and the misery of  having to ride eighty dirty, dusty miles on a bouncing, jostling, smelly donkey—easily a four-day trip for a man in good health!

Then when Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem, imagine finding that all the hotels were full. There was absolutely no place to stay! Things were so bad that a stable offered by an innkeeper looked wonderful.  And on top of everything else, Mary went into labor and faced this unknown experience far from home and family.  So she gave birth to her first baby in a prickly bed of hay, surrounded by smelly animals. Mary could have said, “Lord, how can you do this?  I’m carrying your Son!”

Then when Jesus was a little older, there was an amazing blessing that brought with it horrific trials—the visit of the wise men.  Their visit brought to light the recent birth of a new king, so in an effort to kill that baby, jealous King Herod ordered a massacre of all male children two years old and under.  There was going to be blood and wailing all around– because of Mary’s baby!  Imagine knowing that all the king’s men were going to be looking for you so that they could kill our own baby Jesus!

However, an angel of the Lord had appeared in a dream to Joseph before the massacre, and told him to take Mary and Jesus and flee to Egypt. This brought about the trial of a hasty trip with a baby, and then life in a foreign country in another culture where a different language was spoken, where they had to live until Herod died.

But in the midst of all these trials, Mary did not complain, or whine, or doubt God, or get angry at Him.   Look at how much Mary loved God!  The Bible does not hide the sin of its characters, so its silence on any resistance to God from Mary speaks loudly.

Four | Mary knew and affirmed God’s Word.

Franz Anton Maulbertsch - Visitation (detail), 1770s.
Franz Anton Maulbertsch – Visitation (detail), 1770s.

We can see a key to Mary’s character when we observe her earlier response to God as recorded in the Magnificat—an amazing  poem of praise to God in the Gospel of Luke.  These verses show that Mary knew God’s Word.  In this prayer of praise, she expresses her knowledge of  God’s covenant promises to Abraham, and therefore to her people and to her. She exalts God’s attributes.  She cites His past mighty acts.  She affirms His purposes.  She trusts in His faithfulness.

Take note, then, that her trusting reaction to trial did not come out of a vacuum.  Mary knew God’s Word.  When trial comes, you and I may not have angels singing in the sky or wise men to affirm our faith, but we have God’s Word.  His Word in trial is more sure than an angel’s voice.  He says, “All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purposes.”  James says, “Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials.”

May we love God like Mary did, by believing His Word.  When we go through trials in faith, they will not harm us.  Trials will not destroy you!  Just the opposite.   When you live trials, hardship, difficulties, and sufferings in faith, God will establish you through them.  He will make you strong in Him.  God’s Word says that He will use trials for good.  Believe it.  Let the way Mary trusted in God’s Word in the midst of the hard things encourage you to love God the same way.

Five | Mary became a disciple among the disciples.

Look at how much Mary loved God as Jesus’ mission from His heavenly Father gets clearer.  She loved him dearly as her earthly son, but as we see His ministry progressing and His crucifixion nearing, Mary’s relationship with her son changes.  The Victor Bible Commentary speaks of this in relation to the wedding in Cana.  “Jesus is about to perform the first of His miraculous signs; a sign that will reveal His glory and move His disciples to put their faith in Him.”  When Mary comes to Him and interacts with Him as her earthly son in her usual way, “gently, Jesus rejects Mary’s importunity, and shows her that now no earthly relationship can bind Him, since He is truly setting out on His Father’s business.”  Jesus is now subject to the Father alone. In John 7, Mary and Jesus’ brothers come to speak to Him when the opposition against Him is growing.  Larry Richards points out that Jesus’ family wants to urge him to be less controversial. Jesus at that point makes a clear distinction between his earthly family and His spiritual one.

Mary loved Jesus deeply as her son, but she learned to love Him first and foremost as her Savior and Lord. In the rest of the Gospels, we see her as a disciple among the disciples—at the foot of the Cross,or at a prayer meeting after the resurrection.  Like Mary, let’s grow to have the first and foremost love of our life be Jesus, our Lord and Savior.

Just a special word to you mothers and you students: in the midst of your busy mothering or your busy student lives, love your Savior first and foremost. Remember that you can’t separate Jesus from His Body, which is the Church. Therefore to love Jesus is to love the church. Teach your children that they are living stones that matter much, as we all, young and old, build the church together. Communicate to them how important Sunday worship is by never missing church lightly, by trying to plan all of your week around it so that you have saved up the energy that you need to get there fresh and eager, hungry to receive and ready to give.  Ready to love Jesus as your Lord and Savior, as Mary did.

There are so many lessons to learn from Mary. We can read Scripture and say, “Look at how much God loved Mary!”  And we can be encouraged, because He loves us much, too.

We can read Scripture and say, “Look at how much Mary loved God.”  And we can be inspired, because we can seek to love Him in the same way.

This talk was originally delivered at Thrive, a monthly ladies’ group at Christ Church, in Moscow, Idaho. 

donna-rapacz-foucachonDonna Rapacz Foucachon was raised in a Navy family and grew up traveling the world with her parents until they finally put their anchor down in Florida, where Donna later became a teacher at Winter Park High School after attending Florida State University and then graduating from Gordon College. She married her pastor/chef husband, a Frenchman named Francis, in 1978.  The joy of her life has been being his wife and the mother of their five children. The family ministered together as church-planters to the French-speaking world in Quebec and in France, under the auspices of the  Presbyterian Church in America.  Donna loves homeschooling, speaking foreign languages, discovering new cultures, and tasting new foods.  She and Francis currently have seventeen grandchildren who are growing up as a new generation of lovers of Christ.

mary2

Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *