Without Mary, there would have been no birth of Jesus, no Christmas, no Easter and no salvation. This doesn’t mean that she is the Savior, but simply that she was the channel through whom the incarnate God came into this world to be the Savior. As we saw in our last post, it’s unlikely any other Jewish maiden would have qualified to be the mother of the Messiah. (NOT “the mother of God.”)
Beyond the fact that she was a virgin, the NT tells us very little about this young woman. She lived in Nazareth, a small town in Galilee, Luke 1:26, a town evidently not thought of very highly, John 1:46. She was betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David, Luke 1:27. We’re told nothing of her parents or any siblings. We do know of a elderly relative named Elizabeth, who became the mother of John the Baptist.
At the same time, it tells us a great deal about her.
We’re told she was a virgin. This means very little today, but it meant a lot back then. There would have been no bumper stickers saying that “virginity is curable.” Girls realized that they could only give themselves the first time – one time. So did young men, for that matter. That was of surpassing importance, something to be valued, cherished, and protected. And it was only to be to her husband – after they were married. There was no moving in with each other to “see if it works out.” There was no “it’s just sex,” as if that were just another sandwich for lunch or deciding which TV show to watch. There was no such thing as “casual sex.” It was the consummation of marriage, something looked forward to, not the commencement of “a relationship,” taken for granted.
To be sure, there probably were those who didn’t agree with all this. Mary was not one of them. She was a virgin.
At the same time, she was aware of marital activity and its result. When told by the angel that she was about to become a mother, she asked, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” Luke 1:34.
A valid question.
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born of you will be called the Son of God,” Luke 1:35. She would be the recipient of a miracle.
Now, there are those who deny any possibility of “a virgin birth.” And, humanly speaking, they’re right. It is impossible. But that God Who created the whole universe in a week and made Adam out of a pile of dirt, and Eve out of one of his ribs, would certainly have no trouble creating that which would unite with an egg in Mary’s body to produce the infant Lord Jesus in her womb.
Of course, these same unbelievers also probably deny creation and redemption, so that a miracle conception is unnecessary as well as impossible. They’re quite willing to believe that Matthew and Luke made up stories to make the best of an unpleasant situation.
But, if Jesus were an illegitimate child, there would have been, and are, repercussions, even if that means nothing to our society. It meant something to hers.
As a betrothed young woman, she was considered as good as married, even though the wedding hadn’t yet taken place. Divorce would have been required to break that engagement. Joseph couldn’t simply have written her a “Dear Jane” letter. Because of her status as betrothed, if Jesus were illegitimate, Mary herself would have been liable to death, Leviticus 20:10. Jesus Himself would not have been recognized as a member of the nation, Deuteronomy 23:2. If His were an ordinary conception, whether in or out of wedlock, He would have had a fallen human nature and, as such, would not have been able to satisfy the Law’s righteous requirements, even for Himself, let alone for others. He could not have been the Savior.
The Virgin Birth means something. It meant something to Mary.
We’re told nothing of what happened when it became discovered that she was pregnant, when she came home after three months from visiting Elizabeth. She would have begun “to show.” What did she tell her parents? How did she break the news to Joseph? What did the neighbors think? Remember, this was a small village, and human nature is human nature. There were probably rumors and whispers. So, you see, it meant a great deal to Mary – and to Joseph. And to her parents. Her reputation was likely gone – and Joseph’s when he went ahead and married her. And her parents – where did they “go wrong” in raising their daughter?
Perhaps I’m reading more into this than is there. Perhaps everybody concerned was cool with it, though I doubt it, at least to start. Even if they were, though, the circumstances of Jesus’ birth cast a long shadow. Years later, it was cast into His face by His enemies. In one of the many confrontations with Him that they had, they said, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father – God,” John 8:41. And the “we” and “of fornication” are emphatic in the original language. Now, they might simply have been asserting their own descent from Abraham, but I think there may have been a dig at His own background as well.
Mary was a virgin.
She was also righteous. What was her reaction to what the angel explained to her? “Behold the maidservant of the LORD! Let it be to me according to your word,” Luke 1:38. We have no way of knowing how much of what we have written might have gone through Mary’s mind as she was digesting what the angel told her, how far through she might have thought it. She’d just received the mind-blowing news that she was to become the mother of the Messiah! Her! Mary! That was enough! “Let it be….”
Luke includes one of the many “human-interest” stories for which his gospel is known. The next verse says that she made “haste” to go to her relative Elizabeth, whom the angel had told her, perhaps by way of confirmation of his message to Mary, was also pregnant, and this “…in her old age. For with God nothing is impossible.”
Children were highly valued and loved in that society. They were looked on as blessings from God, cf. Psalm 128:3, 4. There were even provisions in the law that if an expectant mother were hurt during a fight so that she delivered prematurely or if the child were hurt in some way, damages and/or judgment was exacted of the guilty party, Exodus 21:22-25. By the way, this is one of the two places in the Law where “an eye for an eye,” etc., occurs. And her husband had something to say about it.
Children, even the unborn, were loved, and protected.
And a wife considered it a great calamity to be barren. Cf Elizabeth’s own reaction to the angel’s message to her, Luke 1:24, 25.
So Mary hurries to her relative to share in the good news. And probably to share her own good news. With whom else could she share it? “I’m pregnant with the Messiah.” How would/could anyone believe her, apart from divine intervention, like there was with Joseph?
We’re going to have to write something on Elizabeth. We weren’t going to, but there’s just too much here. Probably more on Mary, too.
There was confirmation of the angel’s message to Mary when she got to Elizabeth’s home. Perhaps Zechariah chimed in, so to speak, since he couldn’t, with his own experience with an angel. Mary’s reaction to all this is recorded in Luke 1:47-55. It’s one of the great psalms of praise in the Bible.
Mary, highly favored, highly thankful, highly blessed.
Mary, the mother of our Lord.