This morning we talked about Mary’s obedience now I want to expand on that by examining something of the consequences, the faith and the obedience involved.
Mary’s response is one of consequence, faith, and obedience.
The consequences were numerous in her culture. She was a virgin but what person would honestly believe that claim in a few months time. She would be considered at best to have slept prematurely with Joseph (who himself would be blacklisted as a sinner) and at worst she would be considered unfaithful altogether – endangering her marriage.
Either way the Law allowed for her to be put to death. Fornication is a crime worthy of capital punishment and every soul in town would have considered her worthy of the penalty.
Both of these consequences came to pass. As for the latter situation, this is what happened with Joseph. Joseph thought she had been unfaithful to him and he prepared to separate from her in a divorce. Even though they had not been officially married they were engaged and the engagement in first century Judaism was just as legally binding as marriage so it demanded a divorce certificate.
It was only mercy on Joseph’s part that moved him towards a simple quiet divorce instead of public ridicule, shame and death. He had every right to have her put to death for her apparent crime. Yet he opted for grace and mercy.
As for the former consequence, in which it would be assumed that Mary and Joseph had joined prior to marriage – that also seems to have happened. for in John 8:41 the crowd seems to accuse Jesus of being conceived outside of marriage…
John 8:41 "You are doing the deeds of your father." They said to Him, "We were not born of
fornication; we have one Father: God."
Even today the accusation persists among the Jews that Jesus was born to a woman with no morals.
The cultural problems were paramount. But don’t forget some of the other consequences that came with her submission to God’s will. She would have to convince her family of the truth. She would be forever known as a loose woman. She faced an uncertain future with Joseph. A simple yes to God could cost her everything.
Mary’s response certainly brought it’s share of negative consequences when viewed from the perspective of the people around her but it also demonstrated an inordinate amount of faith. Together she and Joseph are among the few in the Scriptures who present a uniform faith without wavering and doubting at all once they knew God’s word and will.
Mary was being asked to believe in a "miracle that was impossible to conceive!" (pun intended) It’s the method or possibility of fulfillment that is in question
when she asks "How can this be, I’m a virgin?" However, when the angel came to Zacharias to announce a more believable miracle – namely that he and his wife, though they were old, were about to conceive a child in the normal way, that man responded with a question of doubt. Luke 1:18 records the question he asked "How will I know this for certain? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years."
It wasn’t a question of possibility- which was Mary’s concern – but rather Zacharias had a question of plausibility. In other words, even though God himself had sent Gabriel to give this message – old Zach just couldn’t believe it. For his lack of faith in the midst of overwhelming evidence (the angel’s appearance) he was sentenced to nine months of complete silence.
But Mary is set in clear contrast to his response here. "I am the Lord’s servant" she declares, "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left
her. She believed that God was going to do in her something that had never happened in all of history. She believed that God’s word could not be broken, and she trusted against all odds. Her acceptance of the task – to bear and raise the Son-Of-God, the Messiah – was nothing less than extreme faith.
Even after this – her every action is laced with faith. She immediately gets up to visit Elizabeth. And pay attention to what may very well be the reason for that visit. It was not necessarily in order to prove that the angel’s words about her were true, but perhaps it was in order to distance herself from Joseph in order to prove her purity to her family and to her fiance Joseph who should be able to have trusted her.
She accepted the consequences, and answered in faith – but merely believing the words of the angel wasn’t enough. Because ultimately in order for faith to be real – it has to have an effect. That’s the lesson of the book of James, real faith will
cause real action. If I truly believe that Jesus can save me, than my action will be one of putting all my eggs in one basket. With no plan B, I’ll trust exclusively in the saving power of Jesus.
Mary likewise entrusted herself completely into God’s hands, "I am the Lord’s servant." The word servant there indicates someone who is wholly owned by her master. There is nothing now of Mary that she hold back. Fully she gives her body, soul and spirit to God. Everything is now in his hands alone.
God is the owner of her reputation, her life, her all. She calls her self the Lord’s maidservant. The term "suggests humility before the Lord and a readiness for faithful and obedient service, which should characterize every believer."2
God never commanded Mary to do anything. Through the angel Gabriel He told her what he wanted to do for her.
But in order for God to work in her, it was going to be costly. It could have cost her life. It would cost her reputation; and it endangered her marriage to Joseph. Serving God is always costly.
When king David sinned against the Lord and as a result a plague was sent against the people of Israel, David rushed to the field of Araunah the Jebusite (2 Samuel 24:18) in order to buy his threshing floor in order to use it for a place to offer a sacrifice.
Initially Araunah refused the money and offered to give it to David. King David however stubbornly refused the free gift and insisted on paying the full price. “No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price,” David insisted, and then he made this startling statement, “for I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God which cost me nothing.” (2 Sam 24:24)
There are always Consequences to following Christ, Faith always demands that we trust God with the results and Obedience is costly.
We like Mary must respond with faith when God asks us to obey.
I am reminded of the words of Henry Varley,
“The world has yet to see what God can do with and for and through and in a man who is fully and wholly consecrated to Him.”3 When he heard it, A young boy said to himself, "By the grace of God I’ll be that man." That boy’s name was Dwight Lymon Moody, and in just a few years he had started a proclamation of the gospel which spanned the globe.
It doesn’t matter who we are when God asks us to serve Him what matters is who he wants us to become.
“Mary, who seemed to measure low in any ranking—age, family heritage, gender, and so on—turns out to be the one favored by God, the one who finds her status and identity in her obedience to God and participation in his salvific will.”4
You see, it doesn’t matter who you are if you are who God wants to use.
The good news is that God does want to use you. The question is, what do you have to say about it?
1Walter A. Elwell, vol. 3, Evangelical Commentary on the Bible (Baker reference library) (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1996, c1989), Lk 1:26.
4Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke The New International Commentary on the New Testament(Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 92.