Hail Mary, Full of Grace

CC BY-NC, sofi01, Flickr

CC BY-NC, sofi01, Flickr

What endears most of us to Mary is her acceptance of the will of God—“Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38). Hers really is a hallmark example of faith in God’s promise.

What’s peculiar to me, however, is how the scripture seems to commend Mary and her faith. If you’ll recall, after Gabriel leaves her, she packs up and makes haste to see Elizabeth, whose husband, Zechariah, Gabriel had already visited. Elizabeth herself was now six-months pregnant. After hearing Mary’s news, she exclaims, “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (v. 45). Now that’s good.

I Believe!

I love the implications. Elizabeth’s words have some real meaning in them. The odd thing about her life at this moment is that back home Zechariah communicates with her by writing. Did you forget that? Gabriel had struck him mute for disbelieving the promise of God.

Should I ever encounter the angel of God, he’ll have no trouble with me believing!

I wonder how many times Zechariah repented for his disbelief; did Elizabeth ever ridicule him—the priest—for being audacious…with an angel, after all! “Hon, let me get this right: you were scared silly by this messenger, and then you doubted him!” “(Scribble)” Fiction doesn’t get any better than this.

Now can you see why Elizabeth’s words are interesting? And what about Mary? She is newly pregnant and spends the first three months of her pregnancy in Judea with Elizabeth until her ninth. Did Mary leave Nazareth to avoid questions and her community’s disdain? Did God’s holy child become a burden for her to bear once she returned and everyone could infer a possible reason for her absence?

The Light of Promise

One of my favorite preachers, the late Southern Baptist pastor Adrian Rogers, had a good saying he often used: “Don’t doubt in the dark what God has shown you in the light.” Now an angel radiating the glory of God is certainly enough reason to trust and never doubt again, for most of us at least. But circumstance has a way of making us second-guess our faith.

We all know what it’s like to receive the promise of God and, in that moment, feel like we can trust him for anything. Standing in the light of promise gives us a seeming invincibility to doubt, for the promise is as good as possessed. Then, the clouds close and shut out the light. We never knew that daytime could literally turn black as night.

I don’t imagine Mary’s pregnancy and the next few years of her life being the easiest. We cannot know. Sadly, I’m a little more persuaded they were difficult because the devoutest folk can be mean or dispiriting and given to chatter. And how do you convince someone that your child is the long-awaited Messiah? That YHWH is his father, not Joseph, your unwed husband. Maybe strange occurrences swayed a few, but carrying Jesus probably cost Mary some grief.

I firmly believe “Be it unto me” remained her attitude toward God, but it couldn’t have been easy. And before you doubt me on this, going to the cross wasn’t easy for Jesus, although he too was resigned to the will of God.

But Paul calls him the “God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction” (2 Cor. 1:3-4); and I’m sure he allowed the clouds to part from time-to-time to let Mary know…to reassure us that his promise abides. We must know that the darkness is not to be feared and trust that the clouds, although stormy and destructive at times, won’t kill us and cannot possibly extinguish the light of promise.

The Diagnosis

Paul writes, “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed…without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead…yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith…being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised” (1 Cor. 4:18-21; cf. v. 17).

I look at this verse and see an X-ray of Zechariah and Mary’s conditions. Zechariah doubts God by limiting him to the impotence of his body; but Mary trusts God by telling him, “You have the power to give life where there is none.”

We serve a God whose promises for us are enduring. He wants you and me to simply accept them as true and trust him. You may be in a dark period now hoping for the clouds to part for once; know that the promise still shines. Despite the pain, you will possess everything God has promised you.

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9 thoughts on “Hail Mary, Full of Grace

  1. […] Hail Mary, Full of Grace (mikeforchrist.com) r how many times Zechariah repented for his disbelief; did Elizabeth ever ridicule him—the priest—for being audacious…with an angel, after all! “Hon, let me get this right: you were scared silly by this messenger, and then you doubted him!” “(Scribble)” Fiction doesn’t get any better than this. […]

  2. You’ve got my mind working with this one! I couldn’t get through it without wanting to comment on several thought provoking points. I never connected the dots between Elizabeth’s statement to Mary based on her experience with her husband. Worlds are colliding right now in my head!!!

    I rarely think of the difficulty Mary faced or why she left to be with Elizabeth. Good stuff. As a man, I always wondered what Joseph went through. Mary had the pregnant belly to remind those who saw her that she became pregnant before marriage. I never thought of it that way. You’ve just inspired two posts next week!

    The Adrian Rodgers quote: boom! I just got hit between the eyes. I can’t tell you how many times I struggle in the dark. In fact, I’m facing that now with my calling. I’ve begun to see the cracks of doubt when nothing has happened two years after God began to speak and move in my life daily. The clouds are here and with them doubt. I’m now holding onto the light of promise.

    I love the diagnosis and treatment! Thanks, brother for this inspiring post.

    • Wow…I’m happy it builds your faith; I cannot wait to read those two posts next week! And that makes two of us waiting on the promise of our calling, but God will keep his word to us and we’ll be amazed. Still praying for you.

    • One more thing: you mention that you always reflect on Joseph’s experience and rarely Mary’s. I find that I have to make myself think about Joseph and his experience. I’ve been doing that more this season.

      • I try to put myself in Joseph’s shoes all the time. I wonder what he thought and went through having a fiance who was pregnant and not from him. I also think of the struggles of being married for months without consummating it. He gets lost a lot in the Christmas story because we focus so much on Mary and Jesus. We forget that the lineage to David’s throne was through him. He was an integral role in the birth and life of Jesus. I’m going to write on his response and Mary’s next week based on your post.

        • Awesome! That really makes sense about Joseph…his wife “on loan” to God (Oops!) But you have a valid point there. I look forward to both posts, but especially the one on Joseph.

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