I AM THE LORD’S SERVANT
Key Verse 1:38
“‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May it be to me as you have said.’ Then the angel left her.”
Zechariah and Elizabeth were an old and childless couple— and insignificant! But they loved God and so their lives were rooted in the word of God. In other words, whatever may have been the going on in the world around them, they kept their hearts in the word of God, and they lived their lives by the word of God as well. And so they lived by faith and cherished prayer above all else. One day, the most unusual thing happened to them. By God’s design, the priest Zechariah was chosen to serve as a prayer servant for the people of God. And when he came before the Lord on behalf of his people, while he praying, the angel Gabriel appeared to him and announced to him that God had heard his prayers, and would give him a son whom he should name John, and that his son John would herald the coming of the long expected Messiah. And so his wife became pregnant according to the promise.
This second Christmas story begins where Zechariah and Elizabeth’s story ends. It was 6 months later that the same angel Gabriel now appeared to a young virgin girl by the name of Mary and announces to her the birth of the Messiah himself. And this story is equally as remarkable as the first one. And there is no story on earth that can march this one. Because it is a story of love— God’s love for a humanity that in no way deserved this kind of love. The world today which celebrates Christmas so religiously in giving and receiving of gifts does no justice to the true Christmas story. The Christmas story is about the love of God— the God who loved the world so much that he gave his One and Only Son so that we might Old Testament perish in our sins but be forgiven and gain eternal life and the kingdom of God.
Look at verses 26 and 27 read, “In the sixth month, 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.” Who was this Mary? Mary wasn’t always one of the most famous people in human history and an object of admiration and praise. Her beginnings were simple. She had lived a quiet and practically uneventful life in the countryside. Young people in her town for the most part were innocent and pure. The Jews of her day lived under rigid laws. In her time, boys and girls were never found consorting with each other, especially not without proper chaperoning. Rather they were severely sheltered. And it left them innocent of the world’s more lax ways. She lived in a time when marriage was still considered a holy institution and the sensible thing to do in order to quench the passionate flames of youth. A young girl of perhaps fourteen— like Mary— would have already been engaged to be married.
Mary, therefore, was one of those teenage girls who was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph. This Joseph was a righteous man as the Bible tells us that he was. He lived a righteous life before God much like the unique couple Zechariah and Elizabeth had done. He worked hard to earn a living and kept his heart pure from the corruption. Often Joseph must have visited Mary and her family to discuss marriage arrangements. And Mary couldn’t help but think about Joseph all the time! Joseph seemed to have been her whole world, besides the world of her family and relatives which she grew up among. In those days women’s main function in society focused on marriage and the bearing of children. Besides this, young girls had no other importance in society. For this reason it is understandable how Mary would think of nothing else besides her wedding day. It made her happy— very happy. It gave her meaning and a sense of security. The question is what could bother Mary at such a time? And the answer is surely nothing! As long as her upcoming wedding was on her mind, nothing in life mattered anymore.
One day something unusual happened to Mary that changed her life forever. Look at verses 28 and 29. “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.” What glorious words the angel said! Why, then, were these gracious words so troublesome to her? To understand this we must once again consider Mary’s human situation. Mary was not a special person in the world of the day! She was a simple country girl with marriage on her mind. Her concept of life was no more than her future husband and family— and no more! Therefore, when the angel extended God’s special favor to Mary, her women’s instinct warned her that God’s special favor might interfere with her marriage for it came most certainly at an odd time. Naturally Mary began to be troubled at his words and wondered what he meant.
Look at verse 30. “But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.’” But what does it mean that Mary found favor with God? Humanly speaking, to be favored by someone means to be in good standing with that person— gaining some special benefits. This concept of “favor” is especially popular among some Christians. Many come to think that if God favors someone, then God pours out all kinds of blessings and special favors to that person— pouring out his blessing upon blessing. The idea is that those who are favored by God receive the good things of life— have no nagging problems— and living trouble free lives for the most part. This idea about being favored by God is truly popular. On the other hand, the idea is that those who suffer and are wrought with calamities and troubles, are not favored by God. There is nothing farther than the truth.
God’s favor to man can basically be defined as God’s “grace”. What then did it really mean for Mary to be favored by God? Look at verse 31. “You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.” This verse tells us what God’s grace and mission to Mary was. God’s favor to this young girl was to be the mother of Jesus. The prophecy concerning the Savior was that he would be born of a virgin girl. It was a glorious mission. On the other hand, it was not an easy mission to bear. In order for Mary to accept such grace and to carry out her mission as the mother of the child, she would have to become pregnant before her wedding day. This grace to Mary was too painful to bear and too costly. In order for her to accept such grace in her life, she would have to give up her dream of marriage. It meant to give up Joseph since he may never understand her situation. It was too much to ask such a thing of anyone, especially of a young girl like Mary. But when God favors his people, his grace to them is never easy nor cheap. Our great God gives them a mission that requires much sacrifice— it requires their hearts, their dedication and even their lives.
Mary lived in a rigid, traditional Jewish society. Those who became pregnant before marriage were stoned to death. This was another difficulty for her in accepting God’s favor. No sooner did God’s favor come upon her than she became the object of contempt to others. If she became pregnant before marriage, all the village people would think that she was an adulterous woman who should be punished by death. Therefore, it is clear that God’s favor to Mary involved unbearable shame and punishment on her part. Mary was required to bear such shame personally.
But the grace of God in Mary’s life was even more costly. The most painful grace for Mary to bear was to be the mother of Jesus. Jesus is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. But before he would take his seat in the heavenly realm to rule the heavens and the earth, Jesus was destined for suffering beyond human ability to endure. The worst suffering Jesus would have to undergo would be the torture of the cross. No mother, no matter who she may be, wants to see her child suffer even a scratch on his finger. But as if to top all the pain of God’s personal grace in Mary’s life, she had to also endure seeing the life of her son being snuffed out before her very eyes as he hung on a cross. No one could possibly understand Mary’s anguish in such a time. But Mary bravely and graciously bore the favor of God— the costly grace and the torturous mission, and she came to be known as the holy mother of Jesus.
God’s grace in our lives is indeed costly grace. No mission God entrusts us with is easy to bear because God’s mission to us is no small thing. In fact it is a great thing that God should choose us and call us out of our mundane and useless lives and appoint us to do something— anything— for him. God’s grace to us is to take us out of our ordinary and meaningless lives in the world and to elevate us to a spiritual life. To appoint us for service! To this grace, King David said once, “Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me thus far?” (2Sa.7:18b)
There are those who want to be like Mary. They think that if they hear the angel’s voice they would gladly respond. But they do not know what they are talking about because the angel’s voice comes to them through every Bible study and every sermon and every word of God they hear— for God never stops calling them, nor does he stop extending his favor to them. Man is like this. He wants God’s grace and favor, but at the same time he does not want to sacrifice anything for it. But when we are favored by God, but we must be ready to bear God’s grace bravely no matter the cost nor the sacrifices we have to make in order to serve God’s good purpose in our lives. It is a choice each must make. What choices we make in responding to God’s command or his word or his call, usually make us either useful or useless in his history.
In verses 31-33 the angel tells Mary who Jesus is and what his kingdom is like. Look at verse 32a. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.” There may be various reasons why Lord Jesus is great. But his true greatness lies in the fact that he is the Son of the Most High God. Jesus was conceived not by man but by the Holy Spirit who is God and was born of the virgin Mary. This is why our Lord Jesus is great. He gave up all his glory as the Son of God and lived among sinful men. He lived a life of suffering. He was a shepherd for those who suffered without a shepherd. He bore with all our sin sickness ad corruption of heart. Finally, Jesus gave up his life on the cross for our sins. When he died and rose again from the dead, he brought us to glory with him. We who are in Christ Jesus are dear to God and citizens of the kingdom of God even now. Jesus is indeed great; he is the Son of God. Look at verse 33. “…and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” Jesus is not only the Son of God, he is the King of the heavenly Kingdom where all our hopes should be, otherwise we have no hope.
What was Mary’s response? Look at verse 34. “How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’” Mary did not doubt the angel’s words as Zechariah had done. She only wondered how it would happen. So the angel taught her in verse 35 that it would be the work of the Holy Spirit.
Look at verses 36 and 37. Through the angel’s words Mary realized that her destiny was absolutely in the hand of God. Mary had a choice. It was the most important choice of her life. And Mary decided to accept God’s grace personally and to obey his call to such difficult mission. Read verse 38. “‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May it be to me as you have said.’ Then the angel left her.” It is important to examine Mary’s response.
First, Mary saw herself from God’s point of view. She said, “I am the Lord’s servant.” Once Mary saw herself only as Joseph’s fiancee. But now she began to see herself with the eyes of God. She was no longer Joseph’s fiancee, but she was in truth the Lord’s servant. This was a great revelation to Mary. It gave her a new meaning and purpose to her life. Her life would not be a meaningless existence of a housewife— just someone’s wife. Before this, she was destined to be an ordinary housewife. But God gave her a glorious position of being the Lord’s servant. Now she saw herself from God’s point of view as a great woman of God with a clear mission to serve God’s purpose. She was not only Joseph’s fiance, but the servant of the Lord. So she could say, “I am the Lord’s servant.” May God give all women this conviction that they are the Lord’s servants!
Second, Mary’s obedience was based on the word of God. Look at verse 38b. “May it be to me as you have said.” Mary’s obedience was not based on her feelings, whether she felt called by God or not, whether she felt like serving God or not. She heard the voice of God and regardless of how she felt, she obeyed his call to mission based on his word. She said, “May it be to me as you have said.” There are those who depend on their feelings when it comes to God. Some say that they are waiting for God to speak to them. Others say, “I don’t feel God’s calling in my heart.” But such a response is emotional. We need to respond with a clear conviction based on the word of God.
When God wanted to send his Son Jesus to the world in accordance with his promise, he had to choose a woman to be the mother of Jesus. Of all women, God chose Mary— a woman pledged to be married. God chose her for she was ready to obey God’s word. That was her real beauty as a woman. How precious is one woman of obedience! May God raise many women of obedience from Triton so that great work of God may happen in and through us. This lesson also teaches us that God made man and woman, regardless of their human condition, with a specific mission. We must find his specific mission for each of us and live for it. To do this we must be ready to give up anything for the Lord. Amen.