A young girl. A Jewess living in the town of Nazareth. Roughly in her mid-teens. Betrothed (i.e. legally engaged to be married). Living in the age of the Roman occupation of Israel, underneath the pretender king Herod (more about that scoundrel in a future post). Thus far, that could describe quite a few girls living in Nazareth. But this girl, named Mary, is visited one day by an angel of the Lord. He greets her with these words, “Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women (Lk. 1:28).”
This was a divine curve-ball. It is evident that this visit is in the vein of miraculous OT angelic visits. But his greeting makes it clear that something quite unexpected is about to happen. The angel declares that the long-awaited Messiah would be conceived within her womb. He would become the King of Israel. And His kingdom would be an endless one.
All the prophecies and promises, teachings and traditions regarding the Messiah’s coming must have come rushing into the young virgin’s mind; along with the practicals of how she––a virgin––could get pregnant (Lk. 1:34). Gabriel tells her that all of this would be the result of the Holy Spirit overshadowing her (as He had done at creation and over the Mosaic tabernacle in the wilderness). Then, without objection, argument, or any more discussion, she yields to the Lord’s purposes.
Now, her great example of faith as well as her privileged position of blessing and favor with God has led some to reverence her beyond her due. Surely all generations should call her blessed (Lk. 1:48). But not because she did something noteworthy, but because God did mighty works through her (Lk. 1:49). Just like we ought to give thanks for Abraham’s faith, and the blessing which came through him, so too should we give thanks for Mary’s faithfulness and the blessing which came through her faith. Indeed, there are echoes and reminders of Abraham in Luke’s narrative.
Two things are of great importance when we look at Mary. First, is a theological one. She came to hold the title theotokos; most accurately rendered as “God-bearer.” This term was brought to the fore in 451AD, as the church debated in Chalcedon about the divinity and humanity of Christ. Mary was a human, and bore a human child in a human womb. But while this was a human child, He was also the son of God. The theologians and ministers at Chalcedon fought for the fact that Jesus was the divine son of God from His conception. Thus, it was not improper to say that Mary was pregnant with God. The story of Mary gives a Scriptural anchor for the doctrine of Christ’s two natures.
Which leads to the second way in which Mary is important. Mary displays to us a wonderful example of godly faith. Her response to the angel, and later to her cousin Elisabeth’s pronouncement of blessing over her, display that she knew the Scriptures well. She had hidden God’s word in her heart, and when the moment of obedience came, she did not sin. She believed. She worshipped the Lord. While she was certainly experiencing the early signs of pregnancy (the humanity of Jesus), she recognizes that what was going on in her was that God saving her (His divinity) (Lk. 1:47).
Mary embodied the best of faithful Israel, even as she bore the True Israel of God within her womb. We, too, should receive God’s Word with humble obedience, and see in Mary’s Son our Savior; the true, and eternal King of Israel.