Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
I don’t know why, but I had always read this story of the angel’s announcement to Mary and taken for granted that Mary would say, “Yes!” to God. Not that I have always said, “Yes” to God, or always made my life available to Him. Gabriel’s announcement was good news for Mary, but also very bad news. Whatever way you look at it, a pregnancy would seem wrong for such a poor, unmarried teen. Mary had to know that saying “Yes” to God would cost her dearly.
Can you place yourself in Mary’s shoes? Mary would have every reason to assume that her marriage to Joseph would never take place. In those special, precious months of her betrothal period she would be proved to be an unfaithful and impure girl. According to Jewish Law Joseph would have the prerogative of taking Mary before the court and divorcing her, or else having her stoned to death (Deuteronomy 22:23-24). It would mean her dowry not being paid to her father, suffering the shame of being disowned by her family, and feeling the disgrace on her little village.
In addition, Mary’s seemingly illicit pregnancy could mean that her children would be outcasts from the temple for ten generations (Deuteronomy 23:2). Although it is not clear if the harsher penalties of the law were carried out in first century Galilee, it is clear, nonetheless, that stigma and shame were heaped upon Mary and her Son, Jesus (John 8:41).
So the stakes were incredibly high for Mary in saying, “Yes” to God’s will for her life. Yet, a young girl shows herself willing to sacrifice her marriage, her family, her reputation, even her very life. In an act of deliberate dedication Mary presents herself to God: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord”. Literally, Mary identifies herself as a doule (Greek: “female slave”) of the Lord. She lives to do the will of God.
In simple faith Mary casts herself upon God, willing to do His will whatever the cost. Mary lets go the world’s most frequent prayer, “Thy will be changed,” in order to pray the world’s greatest prayer “Thy will be done”. With these words Mary becomes Jesus’ first disciple, His disciple before she was His mother. This is what is always required to be a disciple of Jesus: obedience to the Father’s will.
Bible commentator William Barclay writes cogently about the choice before Mary:
To be chosen by God so often means at one and the same time a crown of joy and cross of sorrow. The piercing truth is that God does not choose a person for ease and comfort and selfish joy but for a task that will take all that head and heart and hand can bring to it. God chooses a man in order to use him. When that is realized, the sorrows and hardships that serving God may bring are not matters for lamentation; they are our glory, for all is suffered for God. There are lots of things God brings to our lives that we don’t understand. There are lots of surprises that bring pain in addition to opportunity. (The Gospel According to Luke)
The very moment that Mary says, “let it be with me according to your word”, the Spirit of God acts on the spoken word of God and brings forth God’s Son within Mary. And that is very much the way it is for us today: as we say “Yes” to God’s written word, the Spirit of God creates the life of Christ within us.
Meister Eckhart was a 13th century Christian mystic who in a Christmas sermon asked: “If Christ’s birth doesn’t happen in me, what good is that birth after all? What ultimately matters is that God’s birth should happen in me”.
“How can this be?” we might ask with Mary. How can Christ be born within us? The answer is still the same: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you”. Mary in her time and place was the first to respond and receive Christ in a way that models for all who want to have the Son of God in their lives. With Mary we are called each day to make room in our lives for Jesus.
Let each of us dare today to say with Mary: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word”.
- Is there an area where you are struggling with saying “Yes” to God’s will for you? Name it to God, and talk with Him about it.
- Sometimes it helps people to pray: “Lord, I am willing that you help me to be willing”. Might that be your prayer today?
- Think about a time when God sent His messenger(s) to you and gave you a word about something so wonderful, that instead of saying “Yes”, you looked at your own imperfections and weakness, and drew back in unbelief.