Who was she?
Mary was a young Jewish girl who grew up in Nazareth with her family. She would have been around the age of 15/16 when we first are introduced to her in the bible and her family would have taught her about God and the stories of His great miracles for her people.
Culturally Mary would have been expected to marry a Jewish man, chosen for her by her father, and to then be a mother to her own family. Women were not expected to have their own career, but to be stay-at-home mum’s taking care of the household. And for Mary that would have probably been all she expected from her life too. Did she have other dreams and desires? Maybe! But to her that’s probably all they were – dreams.
She had no idea of the plans God had for her life, plans that she would never in her wildest dreams thought possible…
How did God use her?
Mary was visited by the Angel Gabriel who told her that she would become pregnant and give birth to a king who would reign over Israel for all eternity. Gabriel appeared to her and said;
“Greetings, favoured woman! The Lord is with you! Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favour with God! He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” – Luke 1:28 – 32
This is a lot of information for anyone to take in, but Mary was 16 years old, a virgin, and not yet actually married. In those days having a child out of wedlock was a massive no-no and although she was engaged, Joseph was thought to be closer to 30, so a lot older than her.
That was typical for the culture of those times, as well as men being respected more than women in general. So she probably felt like she didn’t have much of a voice and wouldn’t be able to explain to anyone what was going on. And like they would even believe her?!
Not many people would think that the promise of a saviour from God would be born to your average 16 year old virgin in Nazareth. No, she was accepting that people would dump shame, rumours and gossip on her and she would have to just learn to deal with it. She decided that the promise of God was greater than any trial she had to face and she was THANKFUL that God had chosen her. Mary responded;
“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me.” – Luke 1:46-49 NLT
If that was me I would be like “I’m not being funny Gabriel, but I think you’ve mixed my message up with someone else’s?!” But Mary didn’t, she totally accepted it and at that moment demonstrated a unique level of trust, completely offering herself as a servant to God.
“Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.” – Luke 1:38 NLT
She would have had to have some serious courage to deal with the stigma and suspicion which would surround her pregnancy. And then imagine trying to process that and the guy you’re engaged to wants to break up with you because he can’t believe what is happening.
“Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.” – Matthew 1:19 NLT
But God totally had her back and sent another angel to Joseph to give him assurance and make sure he understood the importance of what was happening. I’m pretty sure there are a lot of marriages which wouldn’t survive the first few months if their faith was tested that much!
What can we learn from her?
Mary shows us that our age doesn’t matter to God, He will use anyone He wants to in order to carry out His great plans. We just have to be willing to serve Him whole heartedly. Mary’s life also shows us that our service to God doesn’t just last a moment, but a lifetime.
She would have loved Jesus as her son but also had to deal with the fact that he was God in the flesh and I’m sure that would have been confusing at times. Imagine seeing the man you used to wrap in nappies preaching that he’s the son of God?! And imagine having to deal with accepting he has to die the most horrific death on a cross?
She would have had to have a lot of strength and faith to be able to accept these things happening to her son, and I’m sure there were many, many times she was on her knees praying for help to understand.
If you ever feel like you’re in a situation that you feel too small or young to be used by God, just remember Mary. All her strength and faith developed began with a trust in God and a willing heart.
“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” – Romans 8:28