I’m sitting down for Bible study prep on Wednesday for the upcoming Tuesday afternoon (score on the organisational front!) and start reading Luke one’s account of Gabriel dropping this bomb shell of Jesus on 13 year old Mary. It adds a level of scariness, culture differences of marriage aside, to think of the girls you are studying with, as the same age as Mary! As I’m reading this passage of the angel appearing to Mary and her being scared witless and then him telling her this world-changing news, I wanted to know…
Why did God choose Mary as mother of Jesus?
I put it to the girls on Tuesday afternoon. Their answers echoed mine: “She was a virgin.” “She was good.” “She knew God’s heart.”
That’s what I always thought, too. Be a virgin and a godly woman? You’ll get used by God for simply incredible and memorable roles. But then I looked a bit deeper and I found something else.
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.” – Luke 1:26b – 28 NLT
Her life was pretty lovely by my standards: she was a good girl, living in a small town, backed up by a good family with notable connections to priests and to David, and she had a fiancé waiting to whisk her away to a life of first century Judeo-Roman bliss. She was a perfect candidate for great things for God.
And yet there’s a twist.
You who are highly favoured literally means to extend grace.
Grace means undeserved, unmerited favour and love.
In other words: Mary – I look at you and even though you don’t deserve it, I am showing myself to you, I want you, I really like you, and I find happiness in you!
Mary was confused and disturbed (NLT vs. 29) after this greeting and he hadn’t even reached the whole point of the message yet! Now obviously it’s an whopping blazing angel talking to her but it’s also a whopping blazing angel talking to her. About how God feels about her, just because. It bewilders her.
This gives me a lot of hope and peace. Even good ole, classic, pure Mary didn’t deserve to be liked by God or given so much special attention. But he did. Her ordinariness caught his attention. He wanted her right then and there.
It also blows my expectations of good choices out of the water. YES God desires for me to be holy through Jesus and to do things his way, but NO it’s not simply about ‘doing this his way’ for the sake of obeying him. Mary’s virginity, her good choices, wasn’t what got her the part. It was a practical necessity, sure. But when God looked at her he said, ‘you don’t deserve this, but I’m gonna give you it anyway lovey!’
The same applies for me. The more I learn about God, the more I realise that my flaws and mistakes, or my ordinary, tiny person in the universeness, doesn’t limit him. But neither is he owing to my good choices in life. He just wants me. I can do all the good things in the world and God will still say, ‘you don’t deserve this, but I’m going to use you anyway because I just really, really like you.’
Realising this in the story of Mary freed me from feeling like I had to be good for God, and instead, helped me to see I can do good with God. It releases the pressure to perform or reach a benchmark and instead invites me to fall in love with him and let a relationship overflow from there into everyday life.
Grace is the game changer, even for the good kids who obey all the rules. It tells us that we still aren’t deserving, but God wants us anyway. The story of Mary encourages us to release our grip on trying to ‘arrive’ and know that God really likes us right now. I want to be like Mary. I am like Mary – just an ordinary person whose good choices ultimately mean nothing, but who is loved and wanted right now. That’s amazing.