An amazing woman.
When I was a kid my image of Mary, Jesus mother, was of a shy schoolgirl dressed in the classic church play costume. The girl was usually a little ackward and undercomfortable in her own skin and was scared looking even in the play carrying a cheap baby doll Jesus. I often wish the images I learned in Sunday School could be gotten rid of. Often the flanel boards and simplistic plays left a western culture, suburban image of the heroes of scripture.
The truth is that Mary was one of the greatest heroes in all of scripture.
Just after after she finds out that she will bear the Son of God in her womb, at a young age, and will be shamed by those around her she says:
“Behold I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
These words may be the most instructional words for any follower of Jesus in all of scripture. Mary clearly humbles herself (I am a servant of the Lord) and completely submits herself to what God wants (Let if be to me according to your word). In remarkably simple language Mary makes clear her position: regardless of what I want and even in circumstances that are sure to be seen as scandalous, I would have you do what you want in my life.
If you want the essence of the faith in Jesus I would argue that this may be it. I am a servant of the Lord, let it be to me according to your word.
John tells us another part of who Mary is. When she and Jesus were at a wedding and then ran out of wine she tells the servants
“Do whatever he tells you to do”
Mary clearly understands her son to be the miracle working son of God that he is.
In two more parts of scripture we see insight into Mary. The first is when she is at the foot of the cross watching her son die. How much pain this must have been. As a parent I can’t imagine watching my son being treated this way. I can’t imagine a more painful thing to happen. But there is Mary sitting at his feet.
“but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.”
The other is in Acts when we read about the followers of Jesus including the twelve and others:
“All these, with one accord, were devoting themselves together with the women and Mary mother of Jesus, and his brothers.”
My most admired part of Mary’s story though is when she goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and says:
“Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
Then Mary says:
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
He has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
This description, coming from a teenage jewish girl who was scandalously pregnant from the worlds perspective is one of the most faith filled description of God and his kingdom in all of scripture. Mary is speaking this magnificat while in the most difficult of situations and knowing that she has a long and difficult road in front of her. Even in this Mary is proclaiming that God will right the wrongs in this world. He will bring the rich down and the poor up. He will exalt the humble and humble the exalted.
I know I can often talk a good game. I can make myself look smart and wise occasionally. I can motivate people sometimes. I can call something out of people that may encourage them. I can get people to follow me. I can sometimes see strategic things that other people can’t. I can help peoples vision become action.
But in the end, I often rely on my own abilities and purue my own purposes rather than the mission of bringing the kingdom of God to this earth. Mary’s words and deeds are the ones that I want to embody in my life. Not the self serving way that I often go about using my gifts, abilities, talents and treasures on this side of eternity.
Mary’s words and actions inspire me. Aside from Jesus, she is hands down my hero of the men and women in scripture. These words and actions are the ways that I want to respond to what God does in my life:
I am the humble servant of the Lord
May it be according to your word
Do whatever he tells you to do
Stand at the foot of the cross
Devote yourself to prayer
Even in my struggles and scandalous situations proclaim the kingdom
MAY IT BE ACCORDING TO THESE WORDS.