The highly favored one

What would it have been like to have been Mary, the one who would become the mother of Jesus? We are first introduced to her just before she became pregnant.

“In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 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” (Luke 1:26-29 NIV).

From this snapshot, we can learn a little about this young woman. It would seem she was a young woman; most Bible scholars suggest that she was probably in her mid-teens, as this was the usual age for a girl to be “betrothed” – a binding pledge that a boy and a girl would marry.

We also see that she was a young woman of good character. God had chosen her and called her “highly favored”. When told this, she was troubled – she could not figure out what type of greeting this was and why someone was addressing her in this way. Perhaps she had not yet identified Gabriel as a heavenly messenger – how could a man that she did not know know what type of person she was? Notice Gabriel’s reply.

But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:30-33).

It would appear with this additional revelation that she would begin to figure out that the one talking to her had to be from God. The descriptions of the son she would have could only point to one thing. She was going to give birth to the Messiah! “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34).

The text translated literally would read “since I have not known a man.” This is a reference to her never having had sexual relations with a man. We know that she was pledged to Joseph, but the immediacy of her coming pregnancy would seem to even eliminate him as the father. How could this be?

“The angel replied, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called the Son of God. And look, your relative Elizabeth has also become pregnant with a son in her old age – although she was called barren, she is now in her sixth month! For nothing will be impossible with God’” (Luke 1:35-37).

There wouldn’t be a man involved in this pregnancy. The conception would be by the Holy Spirit and the child would be “the Son of God.” As proof that the impossible could happen, she was told that her relative Elizabeth, an old woman past the age of childbearing, was six months pregnant with a son. God could make the impossible happen!

Mary’s response to this incredible news was one of willingness to serve God. “So Mary said, ‘Yes, I am a servant of the Lord; let this happen to me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her” (Luke 1:38).

This is the beginning of what we know about this extraordinary young woman who became the mother of Jesus the Messiah. Her character is worth emulating in any generation!

Readings for next week:
29 January – Luke 1:39-80
30 January – Luke 2:1-21
31 January – Luke 2:22-52
1 February – Luke 3
2 February – Luke 4

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