Faith Ladies International Ministries
Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God (Matt 5:8)
Monthly Devotional - May 2017
Blessed Among Women - Mary “The Mother of Jesus”
(excerpts from my message shared in India in one of the Ladies meeting-2017)
Reference - Luke 1
In the first chapter of Luke we read in detail about the birth of John the Baptist and the birth of Jesus. In verse 42 we read that Elizabeth who was a cousin of Mary exclaimed in a loud voice when Mary entered her home, “ Blessed are you among women! This is Elizabeth’s testimony about Mary through the Holy Spirit. I agree with her because Mary had many attributes that we see in Jesus.
Let us look into some of the attributes that Mary had which qualifies her to be called Blessed among women.
We all want to say or even hear from others that you are a blessed woman which is a good desire. And when do you think somebody says they are blessed? Generally when they are doing well materialistically! When we have good paying jobs or when we have a good house to live in or when we have a good car or when our children are doing well in their education and are in good positions or when we are in good health or when our finances are soaring or when our relationships with spouses, relatives and friends are healthy. We don’t say we are blessed when everything goes hay wire in our lives. But if you really look into Mary’s life suddenly everything went wrong when God sent the angel Gabriel with a terrifying message. In Luke 1:28-29 we read the angel went to her and said” Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you. Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. We get the impression that she was not at all excited to hear what the angel was telling her. In fact she was actually afraid and that is why the angel said “Do not be afraid.” Mary was just a poor girl in an insignificant town, called Nazareth, in the hills of Galilee, from a humble family, with no great expectations that her life was going to be any different or better from her mother's or from that of the other women in her town. She was a typical Jewish young woman with normal dreams that any young woman is expected to have, preparing to get married , start a family and live happily ever after. But God interrupted that ordinary dream which I am sure she was dreaming every day after being engaged to a nice man, Joseph from the same town. The angel appearing suddenly from nowhere was like a blow from the blue in the beginning.
From what we read about her in Luke 1 we do not get the impression that she is rich or educated or having all the luxuries of life to be called blessed. However Elizabeth an elderly, Godly, and highly respected woman says she is the most blessed of the women. Let us see what qualifies her to be called the most Blessed woman.
Mary was called Blessed because:
1. She made herself available for the Miracle of God:
Mary had no idea what the angel was going to tell her till she heard him say what He said. That is why initially she was afraid. After hearing from Gabriel what is going to happen she was so terrified that she could have easily backed off. In fact she mentioned to the angel that she is a virgin and how can it be possible to give birth to a baby without being married. All kinds of thoughts, doubts, and fears were going through her mind like the possibility of Joseph rejecting her, the shame she has to bear once people come to know that she is carrying a baby without a wed lock. In those days that was not acceptable and gravely punishable. All these legitimate reasons could have easily made her to say no to this divine proposal by the angel. But instead as we read in Luke 1: 38 she said very humbly “I am the lord’s servant”. “May it be to me as you have said.” In other words she said I am available. Please do whatever you want to do with my life or through my life.
If an angel appears to you suddenly and confronts you with a mission are you ready to say I am available? Friends we all have the desire to serve God. Just having a desire is not enough. We have to make ourselves available for God to use us to spread the Gospel or in whatever way He wants to use us for the extension of His Kingdom. Don’t wait till you finish all your responsibilities towards your family. I hear all the time people saying I will get into full time ministry as soon as I retire or after all my children get married. We will always have 101 reasons to delay or even avoid our availability for God to fulfill His purpose through us. The experience of Mary teaches us God is not interested in your abilities but He is interested in our availability. No matter who you are, God can use you if you make yourself available.
2. She was submissive to the will of the Father:
How do we know that she was submissive to the will of God? From the way she responded to the angel saying “I am the lord’s servant….May it be to me as you have said” The word servant we read in the word of God in several places but according to the Bible commentary in this context it means a lowest form of servant hood. This is a bondslave or I am the lord’s slave. The attitude that we see here in Mary is absolute humility and surrender to the will of God. Mary had no idea how this mysterious birth is going to take place. First of all she was confused how she is going to explain this shocking and unbelievable news to her parents and then to her would be husband Joseph and then to the suspicious other relatives, friends and neighbors. Even if she had high education in no way scientifically it can be explained. Even today with so much advancement in science we cannot explain such a unique birth. Imagine 2000 yrs ago how such a mysterious birth could have been explained. She had no sound explanation to offer for all kinds of questions that people had. Would anyone believe that she saw an angel and the angel told her that these things are going to happen? We know that Joseph did not believe her story because he was planning to quietly divorce her after marriage as he was a righteous man and did not want her to face the dire consequences of assumed adultery. I want you to picture the turmoil going through her mind. But what really kept her calm and be obedient and submissive to God’s plan was the knowledge of the Word of God. We read in Luke 1:46-55 A hymn of praise sung by Mary from Psalms. It is both poetry and prophecy. It reveals the depth of Mary’s spiritual understanding and knowledge of God’s Word because every single phrase is taken from one of the psalms. It sounds a lot like Hannah’s song of praise that we read in 1 Samuel chap 2. Dear readers let me remind you here the more we know the Word of God the more we learn to become submissive to the will of God just like Mary.
3. She had absolute Faith in God:
Faith is central to Mary's story. She did have questions. She asked the angel” how can this be because I am a virgin” and the angel surprised her further by saying that the Holy Spirit will come upon her and the power of the most high shall overshadow her. All these mysterious things the angel was telling her were beyond her imagination and understanding. However she just decided to believe whatever the angel is revealing just like a child. Even Elizabeth testifies about her faith by the Holy Spirit when she said “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!" It is her faith that empowered her to accept her calling against the backdrop of the possible ramifications of doing so. Speaking about what we can learn from Mary, in 2015 the Pope said: "The true reason for Mary's greatness and her blessedness is her faith in God and in His promises". This is one of the most inspiring aspects of Mary's character. If we truly trust and believe in God's power to deliver on his promises no matter how impossible they may seem, we too can be used by him
4. She was willing to step out of her comfort zone:
What was better for Mary? Becoming pregnant before marriage and face all the shame, disgrace, and heart break that comes with it or getting officially married to Joseph, the love of her life and live with respect and dignity ever after? She knew even if Joseph married her because he was a good man everyone will look at her with suspicion and doubts. She had to live in so much discomfort all through pregnancy unable to answer the questions all other women from her neighborhood were going on asking. We women know our nosey nature. We are always interested in other people’s matters. I know men are not like that! The other discomfort that Mary had to face was to go from Nazareth to Bethlehem, a town their family came from to be enrolled for tax purposes. It was a journey of about 90 miles which means traveling for 3 to 4 days either on foot or donkey that too in her ninth month of pregnancy. Mary was exhausted, in early labor and no comfortable place to stay. How scary that can be and I am sure we women can very well understand her fears. She is in a manger or cave where animals are kept facing her first birth with no mother and no friends or even known people around except Joseph. How much does a man know about conducting delivery? For Joseph also it was a first experience because he was not married before. After staying in Bethlehem at least for a year and slowly getting used to their lives there the wise men come to worship Jesus but their visit again disturbed their peaceful existence. Because of Herod’s order to kill all the boy babies in Bethlehem two years old and under they had to again flee from Bethlehem to Egypt as per the command of the angel in a dream to Joseph. Now think of it! Mary had to get up in the middle of the night and pack and flee to Egypt for their lives. She knew what it was to live in a foreign country, Egypt, where she didn’t know the language, and where she was a stranger. I'm sure these were lonely days away from family and friends, but this woman of sturdy faith trusted God and obeyed him. She was uncomplaining and flexible and patient. She trusted God and she trusted Joseph, this kind and godly man. By now you got a good idea how much suffering Mary went through from the time she humbly accepted to fulfill the will of God. Ladies it is better to suffer anything and be doing God's will than to be comfortable and be out of his will.
5. Mary had a servant heart:
A servant is the one who obeys the orders of the master without questioning. Though Mary had some serious questions she immediately consented to what the angel said would happen. Actually the angel did not ask her permission for this unique role of becoming the mother of Jesus. He only informed her that she has been favored by God to become the mother of Jesus. She could have easily refused to accept that role in view of grave consequences but instead she said “I am the lord’s servant….May it be to me as you have said” How profound is this statement!
Now let us take each of the attributes that Mary had and compare them with the attributes of Jesus.
1. Jesus, the son of most high made himself available to us by coming to this world in the human form through Mary by leaving the portals of Glory in heaven.
2. Jesus submitted himself to the will of His father by taking all the shame and the heavy unbearable burden of our sins on to his shoulders and facing the brutal death on the roman cross which was reserved for those who deserved the highest punishment in those days. He took the sin burden of the whole human race upon Himself. He became sin for us: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
3. Jesus was willing to step out of His comfort zone of enjoying the fellowship and the presence of His father in heaven for those 33 years on earth so that you and I can be saved through His blood that He shed on the cross for each one of us living on this earth.
4. The father had faith in His son that He would finish the work for which He had sent him down as we read in John 5:36 “ Just as the son had faith in His father that he would raise him from the dead on the third day and take Him up to heaven to seat him on the throne to intercede on our behalf”. Jesus repeatedly said several times in the Gospels especially in John 14:11 “ Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me.” There cannot be a more powerful statement than this to confirm how strong the faith between the father and the Son was.
5. Jesus had a servant heart which was manifested when he washed the feet of His disciples. They should have been the ones to wash his feet. Instead he did it to teach them not to be just leaders but servant leaders. We are all interested to become leaders but how many of us are willing to become servant leaders?
Mary, The mother of Jesus is an embodiment of youthful purity, Godly motherhood, and marital faithfulness. She was a woman of unshakable faith, of great knowledge of the Word of God, and of total submission to God’s will whatever the cost may be. She had the heart to let him go when the appropriate time came for Him to leave her home and do God’s will. She bore the agony of His death and experienced the ecstasy of his resurrection. Finally she became His faithful follower and must have been a great encouragement to the early church. What a woman! Do you want or desire to be like Mary? Give a sincere thought to this question which God is asking each one of us called to be His sons and daughters.
Why was Mary chosen to be the mother of Jesus Christ? Not because she deserved it, but because God bestowed His grace to her to be the one to bear and raise His Son. But why did He send his son to be born this way? All people needed a way to have their sins forgiven so that they could have a relationship with God. The only person who could pay for all the sins of all sinners for all time had to be the sinless one who was both human and divine, both God and man. When Jesus hung on that cross, God placed all of our sins on Him and he took all the punishment that we deserved. He was our substitute, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world!!
Dear Lord give me the heart of Mary who was willing to make herself available to fulfill your purpose, submissive to your will to be a vessel to accomplish your mission on earth, having faith in you inspite of all possible doubts based on the knowledge of your Word, willing to step out of her comfort zone no matter how dire the situation was and finally to humbly say I am the lord’s servant….May it be to me as you have said”.