Its not the way I would have gone about it. Lets be honest, which of us would? Entrusting the birth and raising of Messiah – the Mighty One of Israel, the Light of the Gentiles – to a young, unmarried, teen-aged girl!
Think about it? Could Mary possibly understand what she was getting herself into, let alone understand the implications of raising the Messiah? At one level, its clear she needed help. I presume at least part of the reason for her traveling across the better part of Palestine had little to do with mere family obligations to a relative. Rather, I assume she was at least somewhat overwhelmed with what she had agreed to and needed the insight of Elizabeth, wife of the priest, a faithful servant of God. And, if we’re honest, as we look at Mary’s response to Elizabeth’s greeting (Luke 1:46-55), its clear that Mary’s understanding of her son’s purpose is not quite in alignment with what God had in mind for the moment. Far from the Suffering Servant come to free mankind from the tyranny of sin, it seems Mary (understandably) understood her son’s purpose as God’s means to free her people from the tyranny of Rome and to establish Israel’s primacy in the world. Yet, despite her inexperience and incomplete understanding of God’s program, He chooses her!
What’s truly amazing about this story is that this young woman even agrees to go along with God’s plan. Actually, as a young Jewish woman under Roman occupation, I’m somewhat surprised she didn’t run for it as soon as this strange man (the angel) approaches her – especially after hearing that the proposed plan involved her having a child, and not Joseph’s (surely she knew more than one woman who had been raped by a Roman soldier or a strange man).
To be honest, the more I consider the account, the more impressed I am with this young woman. The tone of the conversation doesn’t strike me as that of a teen-aged girl making a rash decision on the basis of starry-eyed promises that she would become the mother to the heir to David’s throne and the Son of God (Luke 1:32, 35). She must have understood that Joseph would likely reject her, leaving her a single mother with an illegitimate son – and no social services office to assist her. She must have understood that her reputation (due to her presumed circumstances) would be with her for life – eliminating the likelihood of a future marriage and ensuring a lifetime of extreme hardship (at least until her son took the throne). Nevertheless, with a real understanding of what she would likely face, she agrees to be part of God’s plan. And while Joseph was merciful, on a very personal level Mary would sacrifice greatly in order to play a part in God’s great plan.
Luke’s account of a young, teen-aged Mary leaves me asking a couple questions. First, if I truly want to be used as part of God’s great plan, what am I willing to endure in order to see His will fulfilled? Second, if God entrusted a young, teen-aged girl to such an enormous task (honestly, is there a bigger one?), what are the youth in my church truly capable of? Is their true potential (both in God’s kingdom and the world at large) being wasted as we view them through the lens of abysmally low expectations?
Pastor Jim Kushner