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TEXT: Luke 1:26-56
SUBJECT: Women of the New Testament: Mary of Nazareth
Mary of Nazareth is history's most celebrated woman. This obscure peasant girl has received the grandest titles: Mother of God and Queen of Heaven. Her likeness graces huge cathedrals; her image dominates town squares. She is an object of respect--and worship--the world over.
But Mary was not Divine; not sinless; and not the Mediator between God and man. Those titles belong to her Son--and her Son alone. Thus, we would not rob Christ of "the glory due His name".
But in stripping Mary of the accolades that some have given her, we must not go to the other extreme, and make her into a "nothing". For, moved by the Spirit, she announced that "all generations would call her blessed". And so we should. By God's grace, Mary became of woman of substance, one worthy of our highest esteem and sincere imitation.
Mary was of royal blood, able to trace her ancestry back to King David. But the House of David had fallen into disrepair. Herod, of Edomite descent, now ruled over Israel. And Rome, of course, ruled over Herod. Thus Mary, a Princess in Israel, was brought very low. So low, in fact, that she lived in Nazareth.
Nazareth was in the far north of Israel, and populated by a "mixed multitude" of Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles. As a result, it became notorious for its superstition and vice. Its residents were so benighted, that they are described as "the people who sat in darkness". Ignorance, heresy, and immorality ruled supreme in the little fishing village.
But Mary escaped its pollutions and grew up to become a serious and upright young woman. This is seen in at least two ways:
1.She was physically untouched. When told the good news that she would bear a miraculous Son, she inquired of the angel, "How can this be, seeing I have not known a man?" This was commendable on her part, especially when you consider the environment in which she was brought up. The Greeks and Romans (who dominated all facets of life in the Empire) were marked for moral laxity. The Samaritans were also unchaste as a people. And even the Jews, it would seem, had let down their standards. Under the Mosaic code, the sanction for pre-marital sex was death. But now, even Joseph is content to only divorce his wife-to-be. Mary, therefore, resisted the temptations of a lax culture, and her own desires too, to remain pure for her husband--and her God.
a.Here it is important to remember the true nature of pre-marital sex. It is more than a social taboo, or a way of contracting AIDS--or an unwanted pregnancy. In the final analysis, it is, "forgetting the covenant of your God" (Proverbs 2:17).
2.She was spiritually substantial too. This is seen in a couple of ways:
a.The kind of man she attracted. She was betrothed to Joseph, whom the Holy Spirit calls "a just man". We see later that he had a strong faith, believing the unbelievable: that his pregnant fiancee' was carrying, not another man's baby, but the Son of God. He was also obedient, following the instructions of the angel. He was a good citizen, not following the revolutionary trash that some found so attractive, but submitted to Roman rule. He was a hard worker and taught his Son a useful trade. And finally, he seems to have been content with the little that Providence had given him. For even though the Holy Family was poverty-stricken, you find not a word of complaint or resentment spoken against them.
1.But what did Joseph find so attractive in this young lady? It would seem, not her physical beauty. For Jesus carried her genes alone. Yet he was not handsome at all. "There is no beauty in Him that we should desire Him". Thus, it is probable that Mary was rather ordinary looking--maybe even a bit on the homely side.
2.No. Mary's beauty was of another kind. It was a spiritual loveliness that was gotten--not by hours in front of a mirror--but by communion with God.
b.Then, secondly, we have to admire Mary's commanding knowledge of the Bible. The Magnificat is surely one of the world's most beautiful poems. Its imagery and power are unmatched in secular literature. But, did you know, that it's not at all original? It is all from the Bible. But not from one place. It is a collage of Scriptures, pieced together to celebrate the coming of Jesus Christ. And although it's true that she spoke these words under the Spirit's direction, it's equally true that she must have known them herself. Thus Mary was well acquainted with the Sacred Writings, and could call upon them in praise to her God.
And so Mary was a woman of character. But the important thing to remember about her excellence is this: the age by which she had developed it. At the conception of Christ, she was not a mature woman of 30 or 40. She was a teenaged girl. Scholars calculate her age to be between 13 and 16! Yet even then, she had her mind set--not on boys or clothes--but "on things above".
The central event in Mary's life, of course, was the conception of her Firstborn. Jesus was a miraculous Child, and uniquely so. For He wasn't--like Isaac or John--merely the son of old age. He was a child conceived without human father. His was a "virgin birth". The "Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary and produced in her womb the Son of God".
How did Mary respond to this act of Omnipotence?
1.She believed. This is no small thing. For a virgin birth is a stupendous act. Here, she excelled many good people. Abraham and Sarah "laughed" at the proposed birth of Isaac. Godly Zacharias wouldn't believe that he and his aged wife would have a son. No one had ever borne such a son. Ruth and Esther, Sarah and Hannah were passed over in favor of the Nazarene peasant girl. And yet she believed: "Let it be to me according to your word!"
2.She rejoiced. The birth of Jesus meant a life of hardship for Mary. "A sword would pass through her soul" as Simeon put it. The shame of being an unwed mother. Her Son could never be her own, but must belong to Another. And, of course, she would stand at cross and see His life ebb away. And yet she "rejoiced with a joy unspeakable and full of glory". For her pain, her travail, her agony of soul would produce "the Savior of the World".
3.She humbled herself. Was ever a woman--or a man--so blessed as Mary? What could be a greater honor than to bear in your womb the Son of God? And so some have called her "the mother of God" and "the Queen of Heaven"? But do you know what she called herself? "Behold, the maidservant of the LORD"! She was content being God's most menial slave, as long as her service would further His cause.
4.She remembered. What God was going to do with her was not novelty. It was a "promised mercy", one He had made "with Abraham and His seed forever". Thus she recalled the promises of God and eagerly hoped in their fulfillment.
And she, of course, was not disappointed. For she and her husband went up from Galilee unto Bethlehem, the city of David, where she "brought forth her firstborn Son, wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room in the inn".
But God was not through with Mary. He discards none of His humble servants. More is yet to come. About Mary's later life, we can comment that:
1.She was not sinless nor perfect in understanding. Twelve years after the birth of her Son, she bawled Him out for "doing His Father's business".
2.But this was only a temporary setback in a lifetime of piety. We find she never lost her interest in the word of God. For "she pondered these things in her heart".
3.We find that when others, even her own family, were turning from Jesus with embarrassment and disgust, that she remained loyal to her Son. She was with him at Cana. She sought Him in the thronged house. She stood at His cross. Loyalty to Christ, therefore, was conspicuous in this good woman.
4.She became witness to His resurrection; and joined His disciples in the first church, becoming, like them, "a partaker of the Holy Spirit".
5.What became of her in her later years, we cannot say, except that "the disciple whom the Lord loved" took her into his home and became a son to her.
Mary's life, therefore, is a monument to God's grace. He took a poor, unsophisticated girl, and made her the Lord's mother--and better yet--His disciple.
And tonight proves her prophecy: "All generations shall call me blessed". So she was. So she is. But the blessedness she enjoyed is not unique. It is shared by all who believe in Mary's Son--and Savior.
Let us, therefore, join the "Blessed Virgin",
"My soul doth magnify the Lord,
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior,
For He that is mighty hath done great things,
And holy is His name".
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