“Reactions to Christ’s Birth” series: (post #1)
Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:30-33, N.K.J.V.)
We don’t know how old she was even though everyone agrees that she was probably a teenager. We don’t know anything about her family other than she was a relative to Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist (Luke 1:36). We don’t know the details of her upbringing except for the fact that she lived in Nazareth. We don’t know how she met Joseph or how their betrothing came to pass. With all these unknowns, Mary’s life before she became the most famous woman in history certainly doesn’t provide much of a background for her story.
What we do know is that she was right on verge of beginning her new life as a married Jewish woman when suddenly, without warning, without expectation, the angel Gabriel showed up and dropped a news bomb on her the likes of which the world had never seen and hasn’t seen since. “Mary, you are going to conceive the Messiah in your virgin womb and give birth to Him.” How’s that for a life-changing word from out of the blue!
Mary’s conversation with Gabriel actually began with the angel’s opening greeting to her: “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” (Luke 1:28, N.K.J.V.). Interestingly, the Bible doesn’t tell us how Gabriel appeared to her. That’s one more entry in the “unknown” file about Mary. The New King James translation says concerning the start to the conversation: “And having come in, the angel said to her…” The New American Standard translation renders the original Greek in pretty much the same way, putting it: “And coming in, he said to her…” Those translations make it sound like Gabriel, perhaps in the form of a man, knocked on Mary’s door and was invited inside her home. I don’t know if this is how the event actually took place, but I certainly like the idea of it. If the meeting did begin this way, it would explain why Mary wasn’t struck with awe and fear the way eyewitnesses to angels typically are in the Bible.
While the story doesn’t say that Mary was troubled by Gabriel’s physical appearance, it does say that she was troubled by the words of his greeting. As Luke 1:29 says:
But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. (N.K.J.V.)
Have you ever thought about the fact that Mary’s reaction to Gabriel’s opening words to her shows us quite a bit about her? When the angel told her that she was highly favored, had the Lord with her, and was blessed among women, Mary didn’t think to herself, “Of course, I am. I’m a good person. I live a holy life. If I’m not highly favored and blessed, who can be?” No, she was far too humble and lowly to hold such a lofty opinion of herself. Instead, Gabriel’s opening words of compliment to her filled Mary with confusion, trouble, and a fair amount of fright. She surely thought, “Why is he saying such things to me?” To calm Mary’s worry, Gabriel then uttered the words of our opening text: “Do not be afraid, Mary…”
But now let’s proceed to the main point of this post. Once Mary had gotten over the initial shock of the opening to the conversation, and once she had asked the obvious question of how a virgin could conceive and had been given as much answer as she was going to get (Luke 1:34-37), now it was time for her reaction to the news that Jesus, the Messiah, would soon be born into the world. And what was that reaction? We find it in Luke 1:38:
Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word!” And the angel departed from her. (N.K.J.V.)
There it is, a reaction so simple and sincere, yet so profound. Not only did Mary believe the news about Christ’s birth, she immediately volunteered herself to play the role that God wanted her to play regarding it. And may the same be said of each of us today. No, God doesn’t want us to help bring Jesus into the world, but He definitely does want us to embrace the truth that Jesus has indeed come. Even more than that, He wants us to place our belief in Jesus for salvation and live each day as the menservants and maidservants of Christ.