Angel Gabriel addressed Mary as ‘highly favored one, the LORD is with you; blessed are you among women’ for she was the chosen one of God. Mary did not feel fear but was troubled at the greeting of the angel ‘and considered what manner of greeting this was’. For four hundred years after the Old Testament times, there was no word from the LORD and all were eagerly waiting for the Messiah, who was to come. Mary is considered most blessed among women for God chose her to be mother of His Son who was to come as Redeemer.
Essential qualities for being chosen by God – Moses prayed to God to show him His glory and God agreed to let Moses look at His passing glory by saying, ‘I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion’ (Exodus 33:18-19).Apostle Paul quoted the same to the Roman Christians in Romans 9:15. Lord Jesus described one part of His mission, that He ‘has come to seek and to save that which was lost’ (Luke 19:10). Apostle Paul says that God ‘chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love’ (Ephesians 1:4-5).
The reasons for God’s choosing are not casual and random but beyond our understanding but the purpose is clear. God’s purpose is to present His chosen people before Himself in a close relationship by becoming holy and blameless, not through our efforts, but by His love for us expressed through and in His Son our Savior. This choosing is ‘according to the good purpose of His will’ and not because of anything that we do. Being chosen by God is being cut off from our old sinful nature and being grafted on the ‘True Vine’ out of love. The Greek word ‘eklegomai’ means to select out of others with a highly deliberate choice (heart preference) with a definite outcome (destination of Divine selection for salvation). It is about loving, taking delight in, testing and refining to bring into a close relationship, to set aside and sanctify for His Divine kingdom. Lord chose Saul of Tarsus, who was persecuting believers, and Ananias was told to go to him, ‘for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake’ (Acts 9:15-16). On being confronted by Lord Jesus, Saul cried out to Him, ‘Lord, what do You want me to do?’ (Acts 9:6).
The first criteria for being chosen is that one must realize that he is lost in his search for God and needs to be found by Him.
Second, is the obvious fact that the lost must be ready and willing to be found. God told Adam and Eve about the forbidden tree and the result of eating from that. They hid themselves after their disobedience and God called out to them for not being at the meeting place. They still had the option to remain hidden and not show willingness to be found.
Third, the lost must have faith that God is looking for him and he will be eventually found by Him and in the meanwhile pray to God continually to tell Him about his need and willingness. This is like calling out from the deep pit of sin and despair for help.
Four, he must be willing to give up on all other sources and ways that he depended on in the past. It is said that after shipwreck the one who keeps on trying to swim his way to the seashore will surely drown due to fatigue. But the one who gives up on swimming but conserves his strength by just letting the body float above water gets rescued.
Five, he must be ready to help others once he has found the way to be saved. We are created to be part of a community of people and it is no longer about me, my family only but about everyone else. The disciples moved to different areas and Apostle Thomas came to India so that God’s message could reach us also.
Six, he must be willing to be guided and led by God on the ways that He decides. The clear command of God to Joshua was, ‘This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may observe to do all that is written in it’ (Joshua 1:8). God does not desire half hearted obedience but total commitment and that too willingly and joyfully.
After having heard all that Gabriel, the angel of the LORD, had to say to her, Mary responded joyfully, with full understanding of the consequences, saying, ‘Behold the maidservant of the LORD! Let it be to me according to your word’ (Luke 1:38). The disciples did not lay down any conditions for following the Savior Lord but left all and walked with Him. LORD God told prophet Jeremiah, ‘I the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings’ (Jeremiah 17:10). King David, being fully aware of God’s Sovereign power, admitted before God, ‘Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them’ (Psalm 139:16). God knows everything about each and every one of us and He chooses to whom He chooses as per His will and not because of any of our merits.
What are Mary’s special qualities that we must adopt – The difference in reaction of both Zacharias and Mary on seeing the angel Gabriel is very different. Zacharias was troubled and fearful and the Greek word used is ‘tarasso’ meaning ‘trouble, stir up’ but in Mary’s case it is prefixed with ‘dia’ as ‘diatarasso’ meaning greatly troubled or intense agitation in inner thoughts and emotions and she did not fell fearful. Her reaction was more on the greeting, ‘Rejoice, highly favored one, the LORD is with you; blessed are you among women’. She was a woman of the Word for she was aware of visitations by angels to mankind. Mary’s Magnificat, her song of praise of God, is an expression of acknowledgement of what God had promised to Abraham and his descendents and its fulfillment (Luke 1:54-55).
Second, She was covered by the Shekinah glory’ of the LORD and she was filled with the Holy Spirit as she surrendered to the will of God for her life and through her for all of humanity.
Three, she loved the LORD with all her heart, mind and soul and submitted herself to obey the word of God as conveyed by angel Gabriel saying, ‘Behold, the maidservant of the LORD! Let it be to me according to your word’ (Luke 1:38). A woman giving birth to a child out of wedlock was to be subjected to death by stoning, but she preferred to obey God than be safe from men.
Four, Mary meditated on the word of God and all prophesies about the Messiah. She ‘treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart’, all that she heard from the shepherds who came to worship her Son (Luke 2:19). The teachers of the Scripture were astonished at Lord Jesus’ ‘understanding’ and Mary ‘treasured up all these things in her heart’ seeing fulfillment of the prophesy regarding her Son in Isaiah 11:1-3.
Five, she was compassionate towards others – Mary rushed in haste to Elizabeth, her relative, on learning about her pregnancy in old age and she remained with her for the last three months before the child was born to care for her (Luke 1:39). When the wine finished during the marriage in Cana, she felt for the family and sought Lord Jesus’ help to avoid their embarrassment (John 2:3-5).
Six, Mary was a woman of great faith – She not only put her whole life at stake by surrendering to God’s plan but also waited for God to intervene and inform Joseph about her purity and save her marriage. God honored her faith and Joseph was informed about the truth through a dream (Matthew 1:19-20).
Seven, Mary was a faithful servant of the LORD and a loving mother of her Son. When all others abandoned Lord Jesus, she with her sister, Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary Magdalene , was ‘standing by the cross’ (John 19:25). Simeon had prophesied on holding the child in his arms in the Temple about He being salvation from God and that ‘a sword will pierce through your own soul also’ (Luke 2:34-35). Despite being fully aware of Lord Jesus’ role as the Messiah, Mary cared for Him to go looking for Him (Luke 8:19), for she knew well His commitment even at the neglect of His own self ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work’ (John 4:34).
Mary was well aware that her Son on the cross was also her Savior. Lord Jesus honored her by expressing His love for her by fulfilling the responsibility of the firstborn, ensuring her proper care after His death on the cross and entrusted her care to Apostle John with this command, ‘Behold your mother’ (John 19:26-27).
The most important aspect of Mary’s life is to be able to say ‘Yes LORD’ to His Divine command and then surrender to do His will. His call will be different for each believer, while some like Apostle Paul are sent to distant lands others like James, Lord Jesus’ brother, may be required to minister to and administer the local church. We have to be ready and willing to obey in whatever place or position God desires us to serve Him.
Should Mary be worshipped? – On being informed by the disciples about the visit of His mother and brothers, Lord Jesus responded, ‘My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it’ (Luke 8:21). On the other hand despite all the torture and pain of the scourging and the cross, He remembered His mother to entrust her responsibility to His trusted disciple, Apostle John. The Roman Catholic Church accords a special status to Mary by believing in the doctrine of Assumption which teaches that at the end of her life Mary was taken body and soul, both physically and spiritually into heaven to be with her Son, Lord Jesus forever. The Catholic Church reveres Mary as ‘Queen of Heaven’ due to her presumed perpetual virginity and Assumption into heaven. The Protestants reject this and accord her no special status.
Joseph had initially decided to give a quiet divorce to Mary after learning of her pregnancy but obeyed God’s command through a dream to take her as his wife. Joseph however, ‘did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son’, though he had taken her as his wife (Matthew 1:25). The marriage was thus completed but not consummated till Lord Jesus’ birth. Listening to Lord Jesus’ preaching in their Synagogue at Nazareth, they were astonished and identified him only as ‘the carpenter’s son’, with Mary as His mother and James, Joses, Simon and Judas as His brothers and more than one sister (Matthew 13:55-56). James is also identified by Apostle Paul as ‘the Lord’s brother’ (Galatians 1:19). Thus accordingly any other identity to Mary more than being ‘highly favored’ and being ‘blessed among women’ is wrong and not as per the Scripture. She lived with Joseph and had children in marriage.
No details about her life and death are recorded in the Scripture for this is not about her but about the Son of God. This does not mean that she ascended into heaven with her body and soul to be with Lord Jesus and be a mediator for us. Lord Jesus told Nicodemus, ‘No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is the Son of Man who is in heaven’ (John 3:13). Bodily ascension will only take place at Rapture and not before as per Apostle Paul and no one can or has achieved this yet (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
The promised Helper, the Holy Spirit first descended on the believers on the Day of Pentecost and every believer is thus blessed at baptism into God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (John 14:26). Apostle Peter reveals the new identity of believers as ‘a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praise of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light’ (1 Peter 2:9). This new identity is with the fullness of God’s glory resting in us. Lord Jesus has confirmed this to God the Father in His prayer, ‘the glory which You gave Me I have given them’ (John 17:22). Every believer receives a special status as part of God’s family and the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit is proof of that for we live in His power (John 1:12).
Since faith without works is dead, when we join our faith with our actions to work together, faith itself becomes complete (James 2:17-18). The believer has all the power and authority that he needs, it is only through walking and acting in faith that the proof is seen. The National Conference of Catholic Bishops has made a specific point that affects all believers – ‘In the preaching of the Savior, His mother is whoever hears God’s Word and keeps it. All who truly follow Christ become ‘mothers’ of Christ, for by their faith they bring Him to birth in others’.
Through faith we accord a special status to Lord Jesus to be the Lord of our lives and are then empowered by Him to do His will in His power. Mary was 12 to 16 years old when she was visited by angel Gabriel but her knowledge and understanding of Scripture in no less than any one else. Her surrender to God’s command to say, ‘Let it be done to Me as per your word’ opened the door for herself and for the whole humanity to be blessed. God desires to bless us and our walk of faith enables us to receive and live life abundantly.